Us in Action

Date: 26 May, 2020

Stuff We Did

Jimi McGrath

By Jimi McGrath

Managing Partner
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What is the best way for an agency to react when they are requested to hand over the lead idea for other organisations to bring to life?

An idea that a large gang have invested all their blood, sweat and tears into. Late nights and weekends. Continuous pushing, shaping, questioning, testing and revising. The sort of effort that gets you to an answer that you know is going to work. And because you have such ambition and hope for the idea, all you want to do is protect it. Wrap it up and keep it safe from even the slightest interference from an outsider because once they touch it, it’s ruined. That may be a little over the top, but it is a very natural reaction and one I have witnessed for years.

“But some of our recent work with the HSE has completely changed my point of view on how to behave in these circumstances.”

Many of us have been involved in difficult interagency teams with underlying tensions bubbling away - where the lead agency would be accused of not sharing their thinking early enough. Or when the people at the table that used to offer complementary services are now direct competitors. Or when the finger is pointed at supporting agencies for sitting back, critiquing ideas and yet bringing nothing new to the table in their own discipline. In the middle of it all you have a client who just wants to see true collaboration that produces the most effective work. It can be a shit show.

I had a healthy debate recently about this topic with some of my nearest and dearest and I expressed some strong opinions based on my own experiences. But some of our recent work with the HSE has completely changed my point of view on how to behave in these circumstances.

Holding firm

It started with a question around how communications would need to evolve as we moved through different phases of the crisis. Early messages were very rational and informative – good hygiene, washing hands and social distancing was the focus. Our strategy team put forward a case that as time in lockdown continues and new cases rise, people will begin to feel hopeless and as a result will become complacent with all the recommended behaviours.

Not long after the case was presented, the weather improved and social media was covered with pictures of street parties and people heading to their holiday homes in Wexford. The HSE reacted with speed and decisiveness and we were fortunate to get the opportunity to work on a campaign that would motivate people to show their resolve and finish the job we started. We needed everyone to feel that this was worthwhile and achievable.

Our idea was ‘Hold Firm’. A simple, motivational call (inspired by a line from a poem by our President, Michael D Higgins) to everyone to dig in and show others your determination to stand strong for Ireland. The campaign was launched with a TV spot with a rainbow visual device and then we had a conversation around the plethora of ideas that we could deliver to generate a wider adoption of the idea.

Letting go

HSE had people knocking on their door to support the idea. It was a unique situation. Media and production partners, other agencies, charities and corporations - and while the hesitation to openly share was there, it was completely overshadowed by that ambition to produce not only the most effective campaign, but to start a movement for everyone to get behind.

The importance and role of the work trumped everything else. So we wrote a simple set of guidelines, packed up the creative and handed it all over.

“The concern about sharing can get in the way of the impact of the work.”

No doubt you have seen the work; in the form of the TV commercial, the street art, the road signs, the projections, the international news coverage, minister speeches, national new broadcasts, celebrity videos and all the posts on social channels of children’s drawings in windows across the country. Nobody was jumping up and down if the rainbows weren’t the perfect semi-circle.

So many have supported this work and the response has surpassed all our expectations. Everyone involved added something to the success of the work and there should be a collective pride in that. And that’s my take out from all of this. The concern about sharing can get in the way of the impact of the work.

When faced with this situation I would encourage you to step back, remember what you are all trying to achieve, do what you need to do brilliantly and let others do the same.


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