Reality check. I’d be willing to bet if you asked just about any creative how they feel about using “real people” in their ads, nearly all of them would shudder. We’ve all been in those positions when a client wants to save talent fees by giving their relatives and buddies some screen time in their latest campaign. But I’d argue there are occasions where “real people” can actually add value to your campaign by providing authenticity you simply can’t get from the pros.
Case in point — our refresh of the RETHINK CHURCH campaign for United Methodist Communications. To demonstrate how church can happen anywhere (not just within the walls of the church building), our spots created an inside/out effect, matching activities that traditionally happen “at church” with the variety of ways United Methodists effectively make church happen anywhere and anytime they put their beliefs into action out in the world.
Working with a production savvy, strategic client, we were able to assemble a cast for our various scenarios made up of church members who had experience with the scene being played out.
For instance, the :30 spot closes with a wonderful, human moment between a church member and Gary. Nineteen years ago, Gary was homeless and an alcoholic. An invitation to church changed his life, a powerful testimonial. Matt Hooper, who played the church member, lives out his faith in his community in much the same way he demonstrated in our spot.
Another execution focuses on global health, featuring a family impacted by malaria in Africa. In another, a former prisoner represents how open minds and hearts can change the lives of those who are incarcerated. In one that focuses on ministering to those struggling with addiction, the two women featured are both in recovery.
The presence of those with a connection to the situations – versus someone without such experiences – lent an underlying authenticity that shines through, whether the viewer is aware of the backstories or not. We weren’t asking these folks to “act,” but instead to represent themselves, their struggles and, ultimately, their transformation through their involvement with The United Methodist Church.
This authenticity not only makes our message (and its delivery) more respectful, but more believable in that these real people are, in essence, living proof that United Methodists act on their beliefs to make a difference in the lives of others.
So the next time a client insists on using real people in their ads, consider a concept that uses them in an authentic way. You just might find it’s not a concession after all.