Masks have become a symbol of our COVID times. They protect us, they’ve become canvases for creativity and platforms for placing fast food orders. Now, in a new campaign starring Viola Davis, Simon Biles, QuestLove and other Black celebrities, they make a statement about communities disproportionately affected by the coronavirus.
“You Will See Me,” a new PSA from the Ad Council and the CDC created out of 3AM and its production arm WildCard, depicts various stars from the entertainment and sports world wearing face coverings while boldly reciting those words. It encourages people to stay safe while also elevating the voices of the individuals behind the masks.
3AM had developed it off a brief from Ad Council seeking to reinforce mask use in the Black community. The idea builds off CDC data showing the Black and Latino residents in the U.S. are three times as likely to be infected with COVID-19 as their white neighbors. They’re also two times more likely to die from the virus. The CDC also found, however, that the percentage of Black Americans who report wearing a mask at all times when leaving their homes is 16 percent higher than the percentage of all Americans doing the same (79 percent, versus 63 percent).
“I’d just had a discussion with my teenage son about the discrimination he may face while wearing a mask, so we jumped at the chance to tackle this incredibly important but also very nuanced issue,” says Tara Deveaux, EVP and CMO at 3AM.
That thinking led to the ad’s dual message of safety and identity. “The primary message is that Black Americans continue to lead the way in wearing face masks to protect ourselves and our communities,” Deveaux says. “But the secondary message is a challenge to all other Americans to see us as the people we are under the masks—mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, friends, entertainers, athletes and community leaders.”
According to Tracey Smith, the casting director on the ad, the celebrity talent was fairly easy to secure “since everyone was affected by this pandemic and the impact it’s having on the Black community.” That said, talent remained concerned about staying safe for the shoot, so 3AM and Wild Card were able to offer them multiple options that ranged from self-shooting to very minimal on-site crew with remote production.
While “You Will See Me” aims to encourage Black Americans to stay safe, it also “reminds viewers that Black voices will be seen and heard on this important issue,” says Heidi Arthur, chief campaign development officer at The Ad Council.