Ad Council COVID-19 #AloneTogether Campaign Backstory, How Dozens Of Companies Collaborated

All types of businesses across the advertising industry have their individual stories of how nearly 50 companies and organizations like the Ad Council, as well as the White House, came together to build the #AloneTogether campaign, which promotes social distancing amidst COVID-19.

While the Ad Council spearheaded efforts, each company from Engine Group to Google to GumGum to NBCUniversal contributed to the cause. The collaborative effort required dozens of companies, many of which are competitors, as well as the White House, the CDC, the HHC, and major media networks to come together to launch national public services announcements in response to the pandemic. 

The stories have a common theme. The executives describe similar experiences that took place just weeks before the outbreak in the U.S. “A week or two before COVID struck we got this idea to build a private marketplace where media companies could donate into the Ad Council campaign bucket, but we were moving to get it done at a much slower pace,” said long-time Ad Council board member Engine Group Global CEO Kasha Cacy. “When COVID became a real crisis we sped up the efforts.”

Cacy said the great thing about the Ad Council is that they can get anyone to work together, and leave their competitive hats at the door.

Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, SiriusXM and Pandora, Pinterest, Snapchat, TikTok, Twitter, Verizon Media, iHeartMedia, ViacomCBS, among others were also involved.

Tara Walpert Levy, VP of agency and brand solutions for Google and YouTube, said when Lisa Sherman, president and CEO of the Ad Council and her team "reached out to me about the concept for #AloneTogether, "we were able to fast-track budget and legal approvals to free up ad grant inventory to drive awareness for the campaign across YouTube and Search."

Excited to help in any way, Walpert Levy said Google quickly secured ad space where they knew people would look for information on search and on YouTube. The goal was to mostly reach younger viewers and those who showed an affinity for restaurants, bars and nightlife.

“Our efforts with the Ad Council are ongoing and we will do everything we can to continue driving awareness and creative support for this important message,” she said.

GumGum CGO Ben Plomion’s involvement seems just as fortuitous. He met with a member of the Ad Council at CES 2020 in early January. No real agenda, he said, other than to talk about producing their first collaborative campaign using GumGum Smile, an in-video platform aimed to amplify the Ad Council’s messaging initiatives. The project would roll out in April.

Unbeknownst to Plomion, that meeting would soon turn into a completely different project -- one that would support the #AloneTogether PSA initiative.

The first campaign GumGum participated in took two days to pull together. It launched March 20 in GumGum’s in-screen format. The campaign will serve 15 million impressions for six weeks and target people who have a general interest in coronavirus. There is also a chance it will run for another six weeks following.

“It was one of the fastest campaigns we have ever done,” Plomion said.

Usually it can take weeks to launch a campaign, coordinating teams, getting the brief straight, pulling creative together, revisions, and more. Plomion called the speed in which the ad launched "really unusual," but the companies managed to pull it off because there was this sense of urgency.

“The second campaign is set to roll out in two weeks and will target people affected by coronavirus. It will use a different product.”

Plomion said the ads aim to reach people that could potentially be affected and those who are affected. The idea is to reach out to high-risk populations-- for example, younger people who are most likely not to use best practices.

"We're tracking viewability at 90% and above average engagement rates, which says there is strong interest in the #AloneTogether message," he said. "The performance of this campaign is as strong if not stronger than a campaign that has been running much longer."

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