Year after year, communities nationwide suffer from natural disasters. Emergencies appear, often unsuspectingly, and leave behind a trail of devastation, the worst part of which is the potential for being separated from your family.
This is why the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in collaboration with the Ad Council, wanted to ask the public one question: Do you know where to meet your family in an emergency? By getting families to plan on an emergency meeting place, we can make sure that one disaster doesn’t lead to another.
Deutsch worked pro bono alongside world-class talent to bring this sentiment to life, inspiring the public to take action at FEMA’s Ready.gov site and make a plan.
Problem & Insight
In an ever-increasing digital world, it’s easy to rely on technology. For example, lost? Look at a digital map. Need help? Search the Internet. Miss someone? Call them. Deutsch NY Executive Creative Director, Matt McKay, says, “The reality of disasters is that you never know where you or your family is going to be when an emergency strikes, or what services, if any, will be available to help everyone reconnect. It’s a sobering thought that we knew we could leverage to make a striking, emotional statement.”
With this in mind, the creative team set about crafting an idea to portray the sudden desolation disasters leave in their wake. It became apparent that the most poignant way to communicate this would be to show what happens when you don’t have a plan, prompting the public to think: “I don’t want to be that family.”
The print pieces portray a series of scenes that have been struck by natural disasters—an earthquake, a tornado, and a flood. Digital and physical elements have been damaged and destroyed in the wake of the events, reminding people that you don’t know where you’ll be, or what services will be available, when disaster strikes. The images will be seen across a variety of formats, everywhere from magazines to transportation venues.
Deutsch enlisted the talents of Dutch photographer, Jaap Vliegenthart, and took to the skies by helicopter to capture images of Chicago and its surrounding urban landscapes. “When I saw the original sketches of the concept, I wrote to my agent saying that I would do anything to get my hands on the project—it’s a prime example of the work I love to do for a cause that can really have a positive effect on peoples’ lives,” says Vliegenthart. With 11 years invested into solving some of the most complicated visual-creative challenges in the industry, including over 100 hours of experience photographing from helicopters all over the world, Deutsch was excited about the creative impact that Vliegenthart would bring to the project.
Capturing the photography was only a fraction of the process. “Hours of scouting potential locations across the country that provided a range of urban constructs left us at a helicopter base in Joliet, Illinois, about a 45-minute drive outside Chicago,” says Dan Read, the art director on the project. “We had the downtown area, as well as a whole range of suburban neighborhoods to choose from, all just a 10-minute flight from the base—this range meant that each image could feel appropriate for the disaster we were depicting, and helped us connect with as many Americans as possible.”
The images were then heavily edited in post-production by Vliegenthart’s team of talented retouchers and computer graphic operators. Working closely with the design department of Deutsch NY, Vliegenthart’s team put in over 100 man-hours of work on each individual image.
Deutsch was asked to create a piece that would hit hard at the emotional consequences of families being separated, and the fear that arises when parents put themselves in the position of not knowing where their children are.
The film, titled “Waiting,” features visuals of a family who planned ahead juxtaposed with conversation of one who did not. It’s cinematic and hauntingly emotional material with a loud, simple message: make sure your family has a meeting place for emergencies.
Deutsch enlisted Danish director, Nicolai Fuglsig, and commercial production company MJZ, to bring the spot to life. Fuglsig, an esteemed war-time photojournalist and DGA winner, brought a cinematic, documentary style to the film. Of his work for FEMA, Fuglsig said, “I firmly believe in the intention of this public service ad. As a father of two, I can’t help but relate to the concern. Just reading the message on the page reminds me of how easy it is to have a plan. I wanted the film to have impact, to be textural and cinematic, and to be emotional and important. It should put up a brave face for FEMA and enlighten people at the same time. I’m really honored to have had a chance to make this happen.” Fuglsig’s experience with portraying distress and disaster made him an outstanding candidate for the job. Under his guidance, emotion and empathy take the lead; the contrast of assurance and despair is exceptionally powerful and is what will inspire viewers to act and make a plan.
Filmed in Los Angeles and produced in New York, the television spot’s release coincides with National Preparedness Month which culminates with America’s PrepareAthon! on September 30th, the national day of action which helps Americans prepare for specific hazards.