Responses by Justine Armour, chief creative officer, Grey New York
Background: After yet another series of Black murders by White people—this time witnessed by millions of people in isolation due to COVID-19—America was outraged and in pain. In the past, Procter & Gamble had started provocative conversations around race with its films “The Talk” and “The Look.” The brand asked us to think about another installment of that conversation that would drive progress, bringing American bystanders into the race issue in a way that empowered them to be part of positive change. We collaborated with agency Cartwright in Los Angeles, now part of WPP, on the one-minute short film “The Choice.”
Reasoning: There are so many ways the system is designed to disadvantage Black people in America, and we needed White people to be moved beyond shock and sadness to action. This meant stepping out the logic of why White people needed to take action in a clear and emotionally compelling way. This is not a one-off, but part of an ongoing anti-racism program called Take on Race that’s starting with a website of resources as well as a $5 million fund to aid anti-racist organizations.
Challenges: America consists of 300 plus million people with vastly different perspectives about racism, their relationship to it and their role in dismantling it. Making a film that captured the story clearly without oversimplifying, created deep empathy and an urgency to act in a number of ways, and didn’t place blame on people but empowered them with responsibility instead was challenging.
Favorite details: Having a courageous client willing to put this message out to a huge mainstream audience.
Anything new: When you make a film like this, Oprah will call your client to talk about it on a Sunday afternoon. And she has pretty good creative instincts, actually. It debuted on Oprah’s Town Hall special “Where Do We Go From Here.”
Alternative approach: Due to our schedule, we used existing footage and stills. If we were starting this project again, we might have taken the extra time to shoot our own footage for the film—although this definitely wasn’t a time to be creatively precious. It was more important to us that the piece was useful, and the words got people talking.