Onlia builds sand castles to deliver COVID safety message

Who: Onlia with DDB and Media Experts.

What: Large sand sculptures on a popular Toronto beach, intended to remind beachgoers that they can still have fun while also maintaining a safe distance from others.

When & Where: While the sandcastles and sculptures were created in advance, the video content was pushed out through social channels just ahead of the August long weekend.

Why: The positioning for the Ontario-based insurance brand is focused on consumer safety, and has included “safety experiments”—relatively small live activations about safety that can be amplified through digital.

“It’s something that’s top of mind for DDB in our ongoing brand activations, so when they see an opportunity to do something that is impactful and a fun safety experiment that will raise awareness with a lot of Canadians, they typically will pitch us with it,” said Olivia van Eyk, Onlia’s head of marketing.

Safety, of course, has a new context as the province loosens restrictions introduced to stop the spread of the coronavirus. “When we heard about the overcrowding at popular Ontario beaches earlier in July, we thought that there might be an opportunity to raise awareness of social distancing in a unique and impactful way,” said van Eyk.

How: Inspired by the safe distancing circles painted on the grass of busy parks during the pandemic, the 12 sandcastles and sculptures (some 2.5 metres wide) were spaced the all-important two metres apart. The video was pushed out through YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Other experiments: Other Onlia/DDB safety experiments have included a partnership with a bike shop to equip cyclists with better lights for their bikes.

They also created the “Calmedy Commute,” enlisting comedians to record humorous podcasts about commuting that were meant to bring more smiles and laughs to drivers. “There was this fantastic insight that if you’re laughing and you’re happy you can’t possibly be angry on the road,” said van Eyk. “There’s all this really interesting biometrics behind it that show that if you’re laughing you have lower blood pressure, you’re more calm or focused, there’s lower incidences of distracted driving.” Onlia tracked driving behaviours using the Onlia Sense Safe Driving app. “We saw that it did in fact have a positive impact,” she said.

And we quote: “Our hope [with the beach activation] was also that we would inspire some local governments to use this beach safety blueprint in their own communities. Use this concept as an example of how constituents can experience and enjoy some activities while still remaining safe.” —Olivia van Eyk, head of marketing, Onlia.

David Brown