With the G7 less than a week away and Canada still looking to be a major blocker on any meaningful climate action, Avaaz approached us to see if we could create a video showing what it really means to be Canadian.
Luckily, they already had the perfect jumping-off point in one of the country’s most well-known ads, 2000’s ‘The Rant’ for Molson Canadian beer, where everyman Joe boldly tackles stereotypes and shows the world a Canada to be proud of:
Unfortunately, it was already Monday afternoon and they needed it wrapped by Saturday. Not a lot of time to finalize the concept, complete scripting, find a location, scout talent, shoot, edit and do grade/graphics/sounds. But hey—pushing for climate action is never easy so what’s a few extra hours in the week?
Avaaz had a great bunch of Canada-centric clichés together, and had started forming a script. Notes were flying around on what was funny, what in-jokes landed and missed, and how to sprinkle climate change messaging throughout. Before working on anything else, we needed a quick step back to nail how we made it all work as one.
Is this an earnest campaigner talking about the importance of climate change action from the outset? Powerful for the core Avaaz supporter, perhaps, but likely not quite as fun and not as effective for getting much traction with others, so that’s out. Is it a more pure spoof that builds on Canadian stereotypes throughout the piece to only bring climate change in at the end? If so, how does it manage that transition?
We suggested that our hero needed a small mic drop moment.
The tone needed to shift dramatically—from fun nonsense to a serious note on climate change—to bring the audience along on the journey. It needed to segue smoothly to the final message in a way that was simple, clear, and struck home.
We also suggested that our hero be young, and female. Because why default to putting another Joe on the soap box when Janes do it just as well? And why not clearly differentiate ourselves from the original more clearly, providing a fresh personality in the meantime?
The direction, if not the content itself, was now set. Jane’s Rant was a go.
Making the time available work for you
The best thing you can do when working on anything rapid-response is plan, plan, plan. Jumping in straight away is an easy mistake to make, and one that will likely cost you in the end. What’s required instead is a very pragmatic understanding of which elements are needed by which time, when core decisions have to be finalized,pro-active inclusion of all necessary stakeholders, and constant & transparent communication about process and progress throughout.
The rough crazy timeline for Jane’s Rant looked something like this:
Walking the tricky line between quality and efficiency
Rapid-response work is a constant juggling act around producing something of a high standard while still making sure it’s timely and relevant. Delaying a day might make mean you apply that extra bit of polish, but will if still be effective? We’re therefore always considering any smalls efficiencies that might make a large difference to production.
The most obvious example of this in Jane’s Rant is the location—we simply didn’t have the time or budget to film in a grand hall with lavish banners and multiple tracking shots. So replicating the scene in After Effects and using a green screen was the obvious go-to.
We built the full ‘set’ digitally, which meant we wouldn’t be working on new, separate effects with every shot, but simply had to position the footage and camera in the right place. We were also able to build it before we shot anything at all, allowing us to map out all our shots in advance. This saved us a lot of time in during the edit, making a 1 day turnaround for all post-production possible.
Changes were being made to the script until the very last moment, with small edits during the shoot. Having an Avaaz team member on set was an invaluable asset, allowing us to make quick decisions confidently on the fly.
Getting it out there
Much like how Hollywood studios are aware of the ‘trailer moments’ when reading scripts—what are the scenes that will sell this to audiences?—it’s great to be aware of and actively plan for how a piece of content will present to the world. Our ‘trailer moment’ was Justin Bieber.
Beyond just being a funny moment in all of its silly earnestness (she is just so damn proud), using the Biebs as the thumbnail and the dominant share graphic helped give the video a much broader appeal, giving people a reason to click even if they didn’t know the original ad, Avaaz, or much about climate change at all.
That said, there’s always a risk that the content might be flagged when using someone else’s image, so it’s good to have a plan B. Luckily for Avaaz, the video lives on in its original state, and we didn’t have to revert to our furry friend on the right. (We guess Justin might be a climate change belieber).
Four days after our initial discussions, the video was out
Jane’s Rant went out to Canadians all over the country Saturday night, landing in their inboxes and their social media feeds. By Monday it had made the most of the attention around the G7 and been viewed over half a million times, bringing the message in front of thousands who otherwise wouldn’t have engaged in the issue.
Even better, Harper decided against standing in the way of progress and G7 leaders committed to getting the global economy off fossil fuels—forever. (You can read more about the G7 result in Avaaz’s summary).
While this victory was certainly the work of many, we hope that Jane and Justin played their part in trying to make Canada ‘the greatest part of North America’ once again.
(Now, to Paris…)