This past July 4th weekend, we were very proud to launch “Until Justice Just Is,” a platform idea and rallying cry for long-overdue change, which we developed in collaboration with our longtime clients and friends at YWCA Metropolitan Chicago. The fully integrated campaign had a :90 video; OOH, digital, print, and paid social advertising; a fully built-out, written, and designed microsite; and a social strategy (complete with designed assets) for launch. It helped our clients meet their fundraising goals six months ahead of schedule—and kick off an all-new Racial Justice League committed to dismantling systemic racism in companies throughout the country.
Oh, and we did it in three weeks.
Like every member of our team, I am deeply proud of the work and personally invested in the success of the larger movement. But five minutes after the campaign launched—and four minutes into actually sitting still and breathing for a bit—I was stunned by how quickly we’d pulled it all together. And how we’d done it all seamlessly, while cobbling together workspaces out of our living rooms, children’s rooms, and backyards.
After a few days of reflection (and sleep), I realized there were a few core elements that made the turnaround possible. I’m sharing them not to suggest that all teams and projects should work this fast, but instead to shed light on what pieces you need in place if you need to work fast—especially in the midst of a pandemic.
YWCA is a unique organization that’s spent the last century in pursuit of one very big, consequential goal: eliminating racism and empowering women. They work toward it in many ways—from providing direct services in their communities around the country to advocating for policy changes on Capitol Hill—but their mission is clear. That clarity makes it a lot easier to come up with a creative platform that speaks to the totality of what they do for the world. And it makes it easier for them, as an organization, to recognize the “right” idea when they see it.
The platform idea we developed with the YWCA—Until Justice Just Is—works for a few main reasons. One, it’s true to who YWCA is and always has been: an intersectional feminist organization dedicated to addressing the effects of systemic racism and eliminating it. The line would have been clever for a wide variety of organizations and initiatives, but it would have felt hollow for any that couldn’t authentically own it the way YWCA can.
Two, it’s a call to action with a clear and differentiating purpose: to ask people to commit to act to advance racial justice not just today, and not just tomorrow, but until justice and fairness are something we can all take for granted.
And third, the idea is big enough to encompass who YWCA is today and who they could be tomorrow. Plus, it’s a narrow enough idea to have clear meaning and a built-in point of view. That narrowness and point of view are the reason creative teams can bring it to life in a meaningful way, execution after execution. And it’s what allows us, the creative directors, to review work and immediately know what’s working, what’s not, and why. The result? A more focused, unified, and purposeful campaign that gets its message across in every medium.
VSA has a wide range of capabilities in-house, from creative concepting, design, and writing to digital strategy and UX to production. Having all of these teams used to working seamlessly together makes it quicker and easier for us to spin up new projects or build on existing ones.
For example, once we got the go-ahead from YWCA on the campaign concept, we had to immediately start writing, designing and developing a website so we could have it programmed and launched by Day 1 of the campaign. Without wasting any time, we looped in our director of UX so we could brief her on the project, share the client’s wish list for the site and talk through different approaches. Within two days we had approval on wireframes, at which point we were able to start design and copy.
I don’t care where you’ve worked before or what big names are on your highlight reel; to me, the most important thing any teammate can bring is passion for the work and intellectual curiosity about the subject matter. And fortunately, our team had that in spades, finding a million tiny ways to bring thoughtful, considered elements into the project that made the work stronger and more meaningful.
For example, let’s take deep dive into the Until Justice Just Is typeface. The typeface is actually from Vocal Type, a type foundry created by Tre Seals. After starting his career as a graphic designer, Tre decided to create typefaces in order to bring more diversity into the industry. The font we purchased from him, Bayard, was actually inspired by a hand-painted sign outside the HQ for the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom—which was led by Bayard Rustin, a prominent gay and civil rights leader.
That same integrity and specificity was also applied to the imagery in the video. Many of the images we used are from Black photographers who have been at the BLM protests, capturing the energy, enthusiasm, and empowerment of activists, organizers, and participants. Their POV was essential to providing a truly balanced and honest look at the world right now. And as an added bonus, we loved getting to know new-to-us talent and supporting their careers.
We chose Sarofsky, a female-owned editing studio, to bring the video to life. Not only does founder Erin Sarofsky feel passionate about Black Lives Matter, but she’s also a longtime supporter of the YWCA whose personal values are deeply in sync with their feminist mission. Plus, her team is as committed and creative as she is. After we shared our script and vision for the video (shown below), the Sarofsky team went out and developed beautiful, evocative visual storytelling, with the perfect vocal talent to bring it to life: a Baptist preacher from Los Angeles.
The more organizational layers you have to go through to approve any campaign asset, the longer it’s going to take to put things out in the world. Period. The YWCA has a very streamlined internal approval process, which enabled us to meet extremely aggressive deadlines.
I have a love-hate relationship with Zoom. After a full day of videoconferencing, I’m completely wiped out from the energy it takes to focus on-camera.
But that said, it really does help simulate the office setting while working from home. Spending all day, every day, on video conferences with colleagues in different time zones—many of whom I’d never worked with before in person—really did bring us close together as a team. Two days after the campaign launched, I found myself missing our morning stand-ups and the chance to catch up with everyone.
Lately, though, we’ve been getting the band back together. The campaign performed so well to date in Chicago, YWCA is going to launch it nationally in the next few weeks. And we couldn’t be more excited about it.
With a background that spans both management consulting and B2B branding and marketing, Kim is a true hybrid: as much a big-picture creative as a hands-on business and content strategist. At VSA, she helps brands in technology, telecom, finance, nonprofit administration, and fashion distill their stories and set themselves apart with bold, refreshing creative. Prior to joining VSA, Kim built out content teams; led rebranding efforts; developed brand narratives, verbal expression systems, and large-scale content programs; and directed integrated B2B brand marketing campaigns. A lifelong language lover and first-generation Portuguese-American, she holds a BA in Spanish and Portuguese literature from Brown University.