Living on the Edge is a weekly series exploring how small agencies have overcome adversity and applied creativity, ingenuity and hard work to solve a business problem. This installment is about how The Basement put together a relief program for its local restaurant industry in less than a week.
The Basement is in the heart of a thriving hospitality industry on top of a growing ad tech community. So as we watched small businesses close their doors across the country and the economic impact of COVID-19 start to materialize, our attention shifted to the local restaurant scene and the state's service industry that would undoubtedly need a floatation device.
Faced with restaurant employees out of work in record numbers, the Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association jumped into action, and a friend of the agency reached out to ask for help. Almost immediately, "It's time to turn the tables" was born. The idea was to support Indiana restaurant employees and message to the community that it’s now our turn to serve the service industry. Our effort was focused on a website built to offer assistance to restaurant employees across the state. It would be supported by a telethon hosted on a local TV station which would go live in a matter of days.
When we started on the site build, we didn’t have a contract in place, we didn’t have an existing client relationship, and, frankly, we didn’t have the bandwidth. But the cause was important enough to get started anyway.
It was an especially complex undertaking as we needed to overcome being physically separated from our office workstations, our usual internet speed, and our clients. From conception to completion, we never met the client in person, which is a rarity for us. Not to mention that we didn’t have a library of creative assets immediately on hand, the timeline was “due yesterday," and we needed an exact duplicate of the site in Spanish.
Our team dove in head first. The site was designed in one very packed day, over the weekend no less. We secured hosting that would survive the huge rush of people (after learning that both the national relief and North Carolina sites had crashed due to the volume of traffic). We were in touch with the client on a minute-by-minute basis with countless emails, calls, texts and video chats.
As expected, the site was almost immediately flooded with service workers applying for the grant—an action we prepared for to ensure seamless function at launch.
After it was all over, Elise Shrock, director of operations for the Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association, told us she initially feared it couldn't be done. "Without the kind of collaboration and services The Basement provided," she told us, "We simply wouldn't have been able to help this many people this fast."
But this is more than just about us. Doing social good at this time is how all our agencies can get our local economies back up and running once this is all over. The industry might be in flux right now, but agencies are uniquely situated to bring brand messaging to life as a force for good.
To us, it’s shining a light on the agencies across the country that are the behind-the-scenes engine supporting brands with ad dollars during this time. It’s a joint effort to solve societal issues and do good in local communities—and being a part of the industry making it happen is something special.
Do you have a small agency story to tell about Living on the Edge? Learn more about the series here and send your story to [email protected] Also be sure to enter our Small Agency Awards and attend our Small Agency Conference in Portland Oregon, July 21 and 22.