So much of Detroit’s character and personality is wrapped up in motion—the thrum of fast cars and the strum of Motown tunes. But right now, the Motor City is quiet, and the streets are emptying as people stay indoors and distance from each other to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The city is now a coronavirus hot spot, with only 6.7 percent of Michigan's population but 26.5 percent of COVID-19-related deaths, according to the Detroit Metro Times. Ventilators are in short supply, and more than 500 police officers have been quarantined with the virus. The police chief has it. The National Guard has been deployed. And the only real way to fight the virus is to stay at home.
So Detroit-based agency Doner created an ode to Detroit that also serves as a PSA asking residents to stay put so that healthcare workers can take care of the sick. It features black-and-white footage of the city—its empty streets, silent theaters and lonely shops—and not a person in sight.
A voiceover declares that in a time like this, “even Henry himself would have put it in park,” referring to the Ford founder and Detroit benefactor.
The agency used a compartmentalized process to create the PSA. Its in-house director recorded the footage himself—alone and without a crew. The editor cut and finished the film from home, and the VO talent recorded from inside her closet.
The idea is reminiscent of an ad Nissan debuted last week for the Middle Eastern market, "Ode to Empty Roads," created out of TBWA/RAAD.