Zulu Alpha Kilo shares COVID-19 campaign with entire industry

Assets for a new campaign to "get people to take this seriously" are being made freely available to any brand or agency.


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Zulu Alpha Kilo has created a COVID-19 awareness campaign with a simple, two-word message: “Stay Home.” 

“What [we’re] asking the industry to do is: let’s all come together, let’s all pool resources to do what we can do, which is spread the message, not the virus,” says Zak Mroueh, the agency’s founder and CCO.

Like the rest of the industry, Toronto-based Zulu closed the doors to its offices on Mar. 12. Since then, staff at the mid-sized agency have been working remotely. It was a busy time at the agency, with significant activity from a lot of clients , according to Mroueh.

But when offices closed and the Ontario government ordered non-essential businesses to close, Zulu started to re-evaluate what role it could play during this unprecedented time.

What the agency came up with last week, Mroueh says, was a message to “make people take this seriously.” In the City of Toronto, 130 people called 311 on Saturday alone to report people breaking the ban on using park amenities and not practicing social distancing in public places, according to Brad Ross, chief spokesperson for the city.

Mroueh says people are taking the pandemic more seriously now, but when Zulu briefed the “Stay Home” campaign last Tuesday (and saw first round of work on the Wednesday), the audience for the campaign, was more for the “risk-takers,” the “ill-informed” and the “stubborn” – groups of people that still exist, and any individuals that wise up could be counteracted by those who think the risk has passed – or simply get too antsy.

“For us, the insight was that COVID-19 is deadly, but people’s attitudes could be deadlier,” he says. “The takeaway that we wanted [was] that it’s really people’s choice – you’re either going to be someone who stops COVID-19, or someone who makes it worse.”

As Zulu went through ideas, a Canadian flag with a red house replacing the maple leaf stood out as a focal point that “everyone agreed really hit home,” Mroueh says. Zulu has also developed a creative for the U.S. and Quebec flags, with houses replacing the stars and fleur-de-lis.

“When you think about Canada, we’re really linked with the States. We’re really one continent together. What happens in the U.S. will affect us,” Mroueh says.

In two spots showing both the Canadian and American flags, the two countries’ national anthems are playing, home recorded demos produced by Tattoo Sound and Music. That rough demo further plays on the theme of staying at home.

“For us, this campaign, and this symbol, this brand that we put together, really we want it to be for anybody to use,” Mroueh says, with creative available for any brand to put their logo at the end of or, alternatively, allowing any agency to use the logo in their own work.

“We feel it’s a strong symbol to say, without even saying a single word, what we need to do as a country. So really, we’re offering it up to the entire industry – to utilize this image, this symbol, in any way they want,” he says.

Mroueh notes how this work will not be entered into any award show and says the only criteria for using the creative elements is that other agencies and brands agree to do the same.

Partner companies involved in the campaign include UM, The French Shop (in Quebec), Jump Start Communications, Tattoo Sound + Music, Pattison Outdoor and Astral Media. The integrated campaign includes broadcast, OOH and social executions, with an online game coming soon.

Also, as part of the campaign, there are a collection of Instagram story ‘invitations,’ which were inspired by the idea that, even though major public events have been cancelled, some individuals are still undecided and uncertain about whether casual get-togethers or family celebrations are permitted. The invitations vary, from a house-warming party, to a barbecue. But, instead of “respondez s’il vous plait,” (R.S.V.P.) it says, “Don’t forget to: Rethink Social Visits Please (RSVP).”

Other, separate, Instagram videos (made with stock footage and simulated text message screens) show a more weighty message by depicting how ostensibly innocuous interactions could end up being dire and fatal for friends or loved ones.