We’re living in strange times with an unprecedented sense of isolation and dislocation from our families, communities and teams. I don’t want to speak for everyone but because of this, I think we’re all looking for a way to connect and feel that we’re part of something larger.

In a sense, we are trying to give our world meaning. So for this month’s article, I thought I’d celebrate a few exemplary examples of the pro-bono cause-marketing work that I’ve come across. For most agencies, these are important opportunities to rally their people to bring their unique storytelling and communication skills to something personal and meaningful that can truly change the world for the better.

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival – “Rise and Shine”

Last week was Fat Tuesday or for us fellow Louisianans, better known as Mardi Gras Day. In New Orleans and even in my hometown of Shreveport, it’s usually the culmination and climax from a week-long celebration of community, history, culture, music, food, parades, and of course…beads—lots and lots of beads! Last year, Mardi Gras was really the last big national festival before the world shut down. With an unprecedented 12 months now behind us, we are seeing the results of a really tough year, especially for the musicians that are the lifeblood of one of the most musical cities in the world.

Why it matters:  This is a beautiful film and clocking in at nearly 4 minutes, goes deep to tell a big story in a very personal way. Led by one of the most celebrated musicians in New Orleans’ vibrant jazz culture, Trombone Shorty kicks off the film standing atop a roof as the day is breaking while belting out haunting and lonely notes from his trombone. Simultaneously we follow a truck through various neighborhoods as a local radio announcer sets up how hard the musical community has been hit by the pandemic. What transpires from there is like a feel-good New Orleans-style Christmas story that can’t help but put a smile on your face. The truck is delivering instruments to doorsteps throughout the neighborhood that will slowly be discovered by its inhabitants. Trombone Shorty’s horn is the call to action for everyone to join in and feel connected in a way that only music can do. The piece wraps up with the poignant call to action, “If you’ve ever been saved by music, here’s your chance to return the favor.” So personal and powerful.

The details: As with most pro bono efforts, this film was generously made possible by a 75-person nationwide team. The director Ben Sonntag said, “When there’s a cause attached to art, the vision is easily shared, dialed in, and everyone puts their heart into it. Every person involved wanted to make the best film possible for the foundation and was open to how we got there. There was no ego, just a truly unified effort. Everyone was all in.”  

According to Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, “It’s been a rough time for our city’s musicians – many are hurting. Being a part of that community, I know that we have to be there for one another. We’ve always banded together to help each other – it’s more important now than ever. Music lovers, join us to help keep NOLA music alive.” 

The good news is that the Music Relief Fund was established in March 2020 and to date has distributed more than $1M to musicians across the state. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to get back to New Orleans and get sucked back into their rich musical culture. It’s truly priceless.

Ad Council/WB/CDC – “Mask Up America”

Next up is from our good friends at Ad Council, which has been fighting the good fight since 1949 to bring “creativity and causes” together.

Why it matters: Over the years, we’ve done some of our favorite and most meaningful work with Ad Council to promote campaigns like “She Can Stem” and “Love Has No Labels.” This time around, Ad Council partnered directly with Warner Bros and the CDC to help remind us all how important it is to mask up and prevent the spread of COVID. According to a recent Axios survey, only about ¾ of Americans wear masks outside their home on a consistent basis, and if we could get that number up to ninety-five percent it could save nearly 22,000 lives by May 20. So come on people! Well, don’t just listen to me; in this video, you get to see it put in action by some of the most iconic characters in movie history. Taking footage from Wonder Woman, The Matrix, Casablanca, Mad Max, Lord of the Rings, The Joker, Creed and Harry Potter to name a few, the WB team assembled famous IP to get the message across.

The details: My hat goes off to the team at Warner’s in-house creative studio 10th Street Productions who were responsible for bringing this endeavor to the finish line. Knowing what I know about the approvals and logistics involving the multitude of very high-level stakeholders, I can only imagine what the workstreams and approval processes must have looked like. That said, the final result is beautifully done and Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman look stunning all masked up from 1942.

Google/Ad Council – “Get the Facts – COVID-19 Vaccine”

To wrap it up, I thought I’d double-dip on supporting the Ad Council in this multifaceted campaign that just dropped this week entitled, “It’s Up To You.” 

Why it matters: Multiple brands and agencies participated in the “It’s Up To You” campaign, but the one that caught my eye was this clever visual and social-forward animation approach from Google. Kicking off with a syncopated percussion track and using a flexing arm emoticon, this 25-second spot delivers its message in a very straightforward manner: no matter who you are, now is the time to get your vaccine! By cycling through a diverse range of arm pigmentation and the corresponding bandaids, this spot does an excellent job of speaking to everyone. The flexing arm underscores the need for people to feel empowered to take charge and do their part to end this pandemic. So simple and effective.

The details: This is apparently one of the largest public-education campaigns in U.S. history with more than 300 brands participating, and is backed by $500M in donated media and talent. The primary target is the 40% of Americans who are undecided about getting the vaccine. According to Dr. Fauci, at least 75% of the population must develop immunity before we can get back to a “normal life.” I don’t know about you, but I’m just waiting for my turn—it can’t come fast enough!