CNN uses raw footage of its journalists in confrontational moments for new ads

The network’s chief creative officer said this ‘unedited transparency’ reveals the truth about its correspondents and crew

Published On
Jun 01, 2023
Scott McWhinnie and Clarissa Ward fleeing a missile strike in Ukraine in a new CNN ad

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Many news organizations have used advertising in recent years to try to take viewers inside the journalistic process, in an attempt to maintain credibility amid the constant refrain of “fake news.” Today, CNN launches the latest effort in this vein, using unedited clips of its journalists at work.

A raft of 10 spots broke early this morning (June 1), timed to the network’s 43rd anniversary. Each one features raw footage of CNN correspondents and crew holding their ground in difficult, dangerous or confrontational situations.

The first spot below features Clarissa Ward, chief international correspondent, and Scott McWhinnie, a photojournalist, reporting from Ukraine. The second shows Shimon Prokupecz, senior crime and justice correspondent, and Leonel Mendez, a photojournalist, confronting police in Uvalde, Texas.


In a first for the network, it’s dedicating its entire on-air promotional inventory today to air the clips—one will air during every commercial break until midnight tonight. Beyond the broadcast takeover, the spots are also rolling out across the CNN homepage and social channels. (A spot that aired during the NBA playoffs earlier this week served as a teaser.)

Otto Bell, chief creative officer at CNN, said gathering the clips was a painstaking process.

“This first batch required lots of old-fashioned human curation,” he told Ad Age. “There was no shortage of profound reporting from all corners of the world. We filtered through days of raw footage looking for candid moments that revealed something fresh and true about our correspondents and crew—all while simultaneously speaking to the journalistic values of our organization.”

Those values include maintaining integrity on and off camera, a primary message being communicated across the campaign.

“This collection of excerpts reveals our approach to journalism through their unarguable and unedited transparency,” said Bell. “The pieces are deliberately unadorned and designed to immerse our audience in the news-gathering process. ...  These eye-opening glimpses are our best commercial—they actively demonstrate our people showing up the same way behind the scenes as they do when they’re live on air.”

The campaign follows a somewhat similar playbook to Droga5’s long-running campaign for The New York Times, which has often endeavored to give viewers a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the work of its journalists. While the Times’ work is often highly crafted, CNN’s almost entirely unvarnished work is unique for the space.