Students in Advertising + Public Relations at MSU transformed a heartfelt advertising idea into a full creative production, leading to a real-world commercial that aired in the U.K. The idea came out of an interactive three-day workshop hosted by faculty member Ross Chowles, where students were asked to work a creative brief with the goal of developing a video idea for UK pharmaceutical company, ACG.
The workshop, held in the fall, featured students from several different disciplines at Michigan State, including advertising, music, and medicine. When the students met, they received a brief from the ACG team and were given the weekend to develop and pitch a video idea that fit the tagline "Make it better."
The idea that ACG selected was a 30-second spot featuring a time-lapse video shot from the inside of a bathroom mirror. The video shows the progression of a young woman struggling with her mental health, taking pills in her bathroom, and eventually improving over time.
To fully realize the creative advertising message at the heart of the work, the concept was then polished and shot on an actual set at MSU’s ComArtSci. On that team was Senior Katie Godfrey, who is majoring in Creative Advertising. Godfrey helped spark the idea for the commercial and also starred in the video.
“I learned so much from that one day of shooting,” said Godfrey. “This was the highlight of my senior year.”
The idea for their video came when Godfrey and her other team members were brainstorming how to make the campaign relevant to ACG’s audiences. "A bathroom is a place that everyone is very comfortable with and a space where everyone can be vulnerable,” said Godfrey. “For anyone who gets a prescription, there is a story behind that. We wanted to show the journey of someone getting better.”
After the final video was shot and edited at ComArtSci, the idea was presented to ACG, specifically Troy Wade. Wade serves as Head of Global Excellence for the ACG brand.
“We then sold this to our CEO, and he bought the idea lock, stock, and barrel. He loved it and said ‘Carry on,’” said Wade.
With the green light on the concept, Wade made arrangements to start filming ACG’s version of the commercial on set in a house in South Africa. What ensued was an intense 16-hour day of filming, adhering to COVID protocols, and bringing to life the idea developed by MSU students.
“There were probably seven or eight people I saw crying that day. One of our production members who has been in the film industry for 20 years says he has never felt like that on a shoot before,” said Wade.
Actor Rory Booth, who played the role of the ‘supportive husband’ in the commercial, recounts how unique it was to shoot this concept. "We are so used to going to a commercial shoot, and it is just product, product, product. This idea was really taking into account the character’s feelings,” he said.
Not only was the idea made into a real-life commercial that was broadcast on airwaves across the UK in the spring, but ACG took it to the next level in the form of a whole advertising campaign. "We created entire personas, still shots, around different people, each taking pills in their bathroom," said Wade.
"When Troy sent me the first cut, it totally caught me by surprise. I did not think I was looking at a commercial; I believed it and just got into the story,” said Chowles, a professor of practice in MSU’s Department of Advertising + Public Relations. Chowles said he was incredibly pleased with the end product and the overall learning experience for the students who partook in the workshop. “Instead of creating things in a theoretical space, it shifted into a real space. The learning bit is that there was actually a manifestation of the idea.”
By Joe Strother