Open creates a provocative reminder about the danger of the pandemic

Toronto agency Open has been running a social campaign to help fight COVID that uses the bold headline “Don’t Kill Your Grandma” (“Ne tue pas ta grand-maman” in French).

The agency developed the creative with no client and no intent other than to hopefully save lives, said Open partner Martin Beauvais.

As a rule, the agency avoids the kinds of cause-related or PSA work that, while well intentioned, can also seem motivated by the prospect of winning awards or generating press. “It’s not our thing at all,” said Beauvais. “That was not our intention here.”

Last summer, though, they started talking about people getting too casual about the precautions and social distancing measures put in place to stop the spread of the virus. Too many people believed they would not die from COVID, but were ignoring the far greater risk to grandparents. “We were being reckless and selfish,” said Beauvais. “We were risking the lives of older people.”

In late summer, the agency started talking about doing something to remind people of the continuing danger posed by the virus. “We realized we were in this for a while,” said Beauvais. “It was not going to end quickly, and it was an opportunity to do something very simple and very shareable, something that might provoke people in a positive way or that would result in a positive outcome.”

Then, in September, Beauvais’ daughter was going to school in Montreal, and the two were discussing how her grandmother would want to see her and the importance of being cautious. That conversation was the catalyst for the idea built around a simple but provocative headline: Don’t kill your grandma.

“We decided we would write a post about it and that’s all we needed to do… We don’t need billboards or TV or anything,” said Beauvais.

The power of a social post with a provocative message had been demonstrated by the black squares that people shared in the spring as a small but meaningful statement about anti-Black racism. They may have felt disingenuous in the social feeds of some people, but if they helped people think more deeply about white privilege, then it accomplished something, he said.

In terms of execution, their first idea was white Helvetica type on a black background, similar to the warnings found on cigarette packages. “But, it was too harsh,” said Beauvais.

They wanted it be more evocative of a visit with grandparents, which eventually led to choosing a soft floral pattern that a grandmother might have as a table cloth or couch cover. “In a way it softens the message in my mind,” said Beauvais. It evokes feelings of a visit to grandma’s while juxtaposing those feelings with a word (“kill”) capable of stopping people as they scroll.

Open started pushing the social posts out just before the holidays, when, worn down by the many months of isolation and separation from loved ones, people were considering visits to parents and grandparents. “If it saved just one life during the Christmas break… that was worth it,” said Beauvais.

They put a small social buy behind it, resulting in the posts being shared more than 5,000 times, reaching over 160,000 people and collecting 2,000 engagements.

But with cases still surging and hospitals at their breaking point, Open is going to renew its push to spread the important message. “I hope that people see [the posts] tomorrow and they say ‘Oh my God I love this, I need to post this to my Instagram or my Twitter.’

“So we’re probably going to spend a bit more money to promote it, I think it’s worth it,” said Beauvais. “I want to amplify this, that’s the whole point.”

David Brown