How FCB is working remotely to get ads out for clients during the pandemic
Last week, Kimberly-Clark's Cottonelle brand released a simple ad urging Americans to stop hoarding toilet paper during the coronavirus pandemic and instead #ShareASquare with friends and neighbors in need.
Cottonelle partnered with United Way on the effort, donating $1 million and 1 million rolls of toilet paper to the organization’s COVID-19 Community Response and Recovery Fund. Plus, Cottenelle pledged to donate $1 for each example of toilet paper sharing that is posted on social media using the hashtag #ShareASquare, through June 1, up to $100,000.
It was a simple call to action to dissuade Americans from hoarding toilet paper or buying up a year’s worth of rolls to resell at a higher price.
It was also a fairly straightforward spot to put together for the creative agency behind it, Interpublic Group of Cos.’ FCB, which relied on a remote team of creatives, strategists, editors, designers, producers and others to get the ad out in a matter of just a few days.
“From the time we got the assignment from the client, it was four days,” says Kerry Hill, who has run FCB Chicago’s production for the past 10 years and was recently promoted to North America director of integrated production. In her new role, Hill oversees production groups in Toronto, New York, Chicago and San Francisco, representing a team of more than 150 people who produce 1,000 pieces of content a week.
Hill says the Cottonelle spot “didn’t require a ton of content” (it even relied on some pre-existing content) and her creatives worked with designers, editors and producers via Zoom and Slack through the weekend to get it done.
“People are working many hours in a day to get these things done,” Hill says. “Everyone is remote. We’re all active users and experts on Zoom. The creatives have been really great about sharing screens with editors and designers. Clients have been very, very good with feedback, in terms of responsiveness. People are just so tethered to their computers right now.”
“When we started working through this idea with FCB, we understood the urgency,” adds Stephanie Pines, global creative, content and design director for Family Care at Kimberly-Clark. “This is a very real challenge we are all facing together. So it needed to deliver the right message at the right time, and could be produced quickly. We went from idea approval to having a fully produced video literally over a weekend, which we feel is a testament to the incredible partnership we have with FCB.”
Hill notes that the transition to the new working reality has been made a little smoother because FCB was preparing for it, at least in some way, before it became a necessity. For the past few years, the agency had introduced several key technological changes to how it delivers creative for clients, with the goal of making the process faster and more cost efficient. Its efforts included transforming its production capability from being siloed by office into one, streamlined enterprise across the network.
Hill also recently partnered with Fernando Espejel, FCB Chicago chief technology officer, to launch a proprietary content management system called MAIKER that leverages AI to capture, store and share assets across multiple channels and formats. The same AI-powered tech is used by FCB to assist in editing processes to get work out in the market faster.
The FCB team leaned on MAIKER in its development of the Cottonelle campaign.
“We have for the past couple of years been focusing on making more content for less,” Hill says. “One thing we’re thinking about now is repurposing the content we already have. If we have content, how do we plan for different executions across different channels? That’s something we’ve been planning for, not just for the situation we’re in but to better deliver high-quality content for our clients. It’s been very helpful for us in the past few weeks.”
FCB also leaned on an existing disaster-recovery plan when the social distancing and shelter-in-place mandates began taking effect, designed to set creatives up in their own homes should one of its offices “go down,” according to Hill, who notes that the agency already assessed what monitors, equipment and tools each employee needs to do their jobs remotely before it became a necessity.
Still, as FCB and likely countless other shops are learning right now, some things just can’t be planned for or anticipated. Like when a brief for an unnamed client called for pictures of people conducting “neighborly” acts while social distancing—something FCB’s photographer assigned to the project thought would be simple, before being posed with the problem of getting talent release forms signed by the subjects without coming into contact with them. Hill says the photographer’s solution was to shout to the people and record them on video giving their permission, as well as yelling their email addresses so the agency could then follow up with a form in writing.
“I was like, ‘done, that’s happening,’” Hill says, noting how “remarkable” it’s been for her to see how the team has adapted in creative ways to the current situation. "Everyone is in this together … I would say, though, that everybody definitely misses the [in-person] interaction.”
Mindshare handled media planning and buying for the Cottonelle effort while Ketchum controlled PR.