Centennial College strikes a positive note about lessons from a pandemic

Who: Centennial College, Church + State for creative, Hotspex for media, produced by Airfoil Media (David Kalinauskas directing).

What: “Learn your new way,” a new online/social ad with a distinctly positive pandemic message about the things so many of us have learned over the past year.

When & Where: The ad is going live today, with paid digital media support running through August on a variety of platforms.

Why: While COVID is a main character in the the spot, the message is about learning and being prepared for a world transformed, themes core to the Centennial brand. “It is embracing the limitations of the pandemic to learn new things, which will make us better people,” said Church + State’s founder and chief creative officer, Ron Tite. “And that is a message that Centennial can get behind, whether it is in a pandemic or not.”

How: Rather than focus on how the past year was about crisis management and harm reduction, the ad looks at how people have learned new things in remarkable ways. It acknowledges that while the past year has been a challenge, it has also been an opportunity because of how much we’ve learned, and how those learnings prepare us for a changed (and changing) world.

A Centennial teacher talking to her students via video serves as the spot’s narrator, accompanied by shots of some of the many ways people have adapted in the last year. “Every single one of us is learning new ways of living, and being and doing,” she says. “The difference between simply being in this moment and thriving in this moment, is what we learn from this moment. This won’t be on the test. This is the test.”

The inspiration: The idea came fairly early in the pandemic, after Tite watched a video of his friend, musician Peter Katz, explaining how other musicians can perform virtual concerts. “I watched it and I was kind of inspired by that,” he said. “This is amazing that people are starting to teach other people, and the line ‘everyone’s a student’ kind of dawned on me. We are all in this together, we’re all learning new things and everyone is a student.”

He wrote the script that night and presented it to Bruce Williams, Centennial’s director of marketing and communications, the next day. “I said ‘I know you didn’t’ ask for this, but I think you need to do this,’ and Bruce agreed,” he said. By fall they had the green light to proceed, and they shot the video early in the New Year.

But don’t we want to talk about life after the pandemic?: Things do seem to be going in a positive direction, but there are still several months of pandemic living and learning ahead of us, said Tite. More than that, the ad is about preparing for a world changed by the pandemic. “It is a reminder that this is still an opportunity for people to do things differently. So that when it is over, they are different people doing different things, inspired by the limitations of the pandemic.”

And we quote: “While the conditions may not have been expected or ideal, there is great strength in learning something new… When people are thrust into a new environment, the stress and discomfort are followed by incredible pride and fulfillment. We want to remind Canadians of that.” —Bruce Williams, director, marketing and communications, Centennial College.

David Brown