A Technically Complex Campaign With Heart
In November, nearly nine months into the pandemic and with physical distancing now a way of life, the inability to connect—with each other and our dreams—was especially acute, and people were searching for signs of hope. In response, McCann designed a campaign for USBank that paved the way for optimism. The concept for “We’ll Get There Together” was to envision a comeback, a bright future we could achieve together, with Lauren Greenfield on board to direct on location in Los Angeles. The campaign was timely, emotional, and necessary. It was also incredibly complex technically.
To illustrate the idea of feeling distanced from the things we want to pursue—vacations, plans to open a business, new discoveries—the concept involved a split-screen approach picturing two worlds that are complementary but separated by a wide band of white space. As each spot progresses, the gap between these worlds narrows and eventually disappears, and the two worlds are seamlessly connected, marking the return of the life we miss. Lauren loved the concept: the idea that we could come back better, stronger and more connected, because of the struggles we’ve been through with the pandemic, but also thanks to the hard lessons learned.
Even though the split screen was clearly a storytelling device, everything else about the spots needed to feel natural and authentic. “We wanted to tell the story visually with an exciting conceptual and technical twist, but preserve the emotional punch of real situations and empathetic characters,” she notes.
“We wanted to tell the story visually with an exciting conceptual and technical twist, but preserve the emotional punch of real situations and empathetic characters.” —director Lauren Greenfield
Determined to leave nothing to chance during the shoot, which involved precise timing and visual parallels, she oversaw animated pre-visualizations so she and her team could try out ideas and identify and address potential issues. With a split screen, you have to direct the viewer’s eye so they know where to look. Horizon lines need to be in harmony. The distance between the camera and the subject, as well as the lens and camera movement, must be carefully considered because it informs the complementary relationship between the two sides.
Lauren wanted the action on both sides to be connected throughout, either through mirroring or by continuity of action that would carry over from one side to the other. The final scene of each spot is a single tableau shot from two different angles, which literally and figuratively come together to become a single frame. Lauren and her team mapped out the possibilities in animatic form.
Then they spent two days shooting film tests to confirm their ideas would work, going to all of the locations and filming with stand-ins. Her editor cut three complete spots from the tests. “That turned up answers about what was working and what wasn’t, what we would have time for, how wide the shots needed to be in order to read, and so forth,” says Lauren, adding, “Prep is everything on commercials.”
Beyond the technical problem solving, she was also deeply invested in the casting and music. USBank wanted the spots to feature people who reflect their diverse customer base. One of the spots centered on small-business owners, and Lauren wanted to cast exclusively from gay couples—so that the two owners could be close together without distancing and because the natural chemistry of their real relationship would resonate onscreen. Another focused on a young boy who dreams of having a drum set, and she found a 10-year-old Filipino drum prodigy—and then added a day of casting to find the perfect Filipino woman to play his supportive mom. To facilitate naturalistic performances in the drum spot, Lauren brought in a pair of composer friends, Emmy winner Laura Karpman (her credits include Lovecraft Country) and Nora Kroll-Rosenbaum, to compose mini drum solos for the child to play so that the spot could be shot in time to the music.
The care and attention she poured into the project brought genuine life to “We’ll Get There Together,” yielding a campaign that speaks to the heart and has cinematic appeal. “USBank wanted something that didn’t feel like other bank commercials,” notes Lauren. “They wanted these spots to be warm and human and for the message to be uplifting. That was something I could really get behind.”
Editor – Justin Quagliata