Behind the Frames of All Things Considered's New Ad Campaign
This week, NPR's Marketing & Branding team launched a new promotional campaign for All Things Considered targeted at new audiences and lapsed listeners. Titled "Just Listen," the campaign features a suite of digital and social assets, and animated videos created in partnership with DC creative studio Duke & Duck. The videos dramatize the chaos of how a lot of us consume the news these days and juxtapose it with ATC's calm curation.
To hear more about the thinking that went into the campaign and get a peek inside the animation process, we threw out some questions to the show's Executive Producer and acting VP of News Programming, Cara Tallo; Wanyu Zhang and Sergio Romano from NPR's Marketing & Branding team; and the animators at Duke & Duck. Here's what they had to say.
NPR Marketing & Branding Team
What is the goal for this campaign and how does the animation help reach it? Why now?
The goal of this campaign is to bring back some of ATC's lapsed listeners and gain new ones by positioning it as a news show that doesn't feel like a news show, coming at a time of day when people finally have time to take in more than just the headlines.
Do you feel like the animations/animators conveyed the idea and message of the campaign?
100%. Animation allowed us to create an immersive world to dramatize a daily reality most of us face – that of constant distractions shouting for our attention. It also allowed us to create a second world that stands in sharp contrast to the first one – a calm oasis where people transition to who they are after work, with ATC playing in the background.
Why did you choose Duke & Duck as your animation partner?
One of Duke & Duck's mantras is to "Tell stories that matter." We're at a point in our culture where we've hit a wall with news fatigue and yet the news cycle has arguably never been more important or affected each of our lives so directly. Now's not the time to tune out or escape. All Things Considered, with its empathetic hosts, thoughtful interviews, and calm curation, offers listeners a way to get the day's most important stories in one place, every afternoon. We'd say that's a message worth spreading, and Duke & Duck seemed to understand that right away.
All Things Considered Team
What can new listeners expect to hear and look forward to?
Stories with stakes for the whole world, and your local community. Discoveries from deep space, all the way down to the cells in your body – and why they matter. The next book you should read, and the next add to your watchlist. The story you didn't even know you wanted to know – so you can be the smart friend (who "heard it on NPR").
There's a reason NPR has long been one of the most trusted media organizations. This is a space where you can rely on us to provide the context you need to understand the world in a new way.
What message do you want people to walk away with after seeing this campaign?
I consider All Things Considered the ANTI-algorithm. The staff sees and feels that chaos, then thoughtfully curates it down to the bits that matter MOST, to help you understand the world in a whole new way.
What message did you want to convey in these videos?
For over fifty years, ATC and NPR have built this incredible relationship with their listeners (us included!). People don't just tune in for the news, but for culture and science and conversation. With so much vying for our attention right now, ATC delivers real value to the audience with thoughtfully curated stories that surprise and enrich our lives – without requiring us to keep up with what's happening 24/7.
What were the themes you noticed about ATC (and NPR) that you wanted to make sure came through in the animation?
In this campaign, we wanted to draw out the approachability and sincerity that is core to the ATC brand. The people behind the show and across NPR really care about their audience, and the way this program is designed reflects that – from how the stories are told to the promise to cover "all you need, in one place." It's a show that breaks through the noise and gives people a chance to catch their breath, then invites them to listen to something worth hearing, every day. Just like our calm passengers on the train, when you tune into the show you have a chance to let go of the day's worries.
Where did you draw inspiration from for the video concept?
From the beginning, this was a story about escaping the confusing, overwhelming world of noise to the clear, calming world of ATC. When we landed on the tunnel as a visual idea, the metaphor really clicked for us: how they amplify the noise around you, remove you from the context of your surroundings, and leave you with a mounting sense of claustrophobia the longer you're in them. One of our inspirations goes all the way back to NPR's founding year, with 1971's Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and its harrowing tunnel scene.
For the notifications, we looked at swarms of gnats – harmless enough on their own, but impossible to ignore or shake when you find yourself in a cloud of them. It also gave us a natural segue into having them buzz around the light at the tunnel exit.
The train visual arrived alongside the tunnel, and allowed us to carry the momentum of the tunnel scene into the remainder of the piece while providing a perfect setting for our big cast of characters at the end of the spot. We really loved how the train at first feels familiar as a commuter setting, but quickly gives way to surreal-yet-everyday scenes as we move through the car, with people tuning into ATC and bringing a bit of their surroundings with them. While there is no shortage of great train-bound tales to refer to, we drew most heavily from our own experiences of the Metro in and around DC. Maybe we're romantics, but for those brief minutes on the bus or subway, your story is connected to everyone else's riding with you. Likewise, when you tune into ATC, you're sharing that headspace with listeners from around the country, and sharing in the same stories that help us make sense of the world.
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