Here is the final product, read below for the backstory.
It is difficult to overestimate the importance that my life insurance policy has had in our lives. From early in my diagnosis process, when ALS was the remotest possibility, right up until today, there has not been a single day that Johnna and I have not felt grateful that we have that policy. It is a policy that will be in force until our youngest is out of college, and we know that whatever our path is from now until then we have that support to back us up. It has absolutely helped us maintain our optimism and confidence as we go forward, as it allows us to focus on beating this disease (or at least forcing a stalemate) instead of on how our family would manage without that protection.
I also know that if the reverse were true, and we didn’t have that policy, there wouldn’t have been an hour since my diagnosis that I wouldn’t have thought about missing that opportunity. It truly would have been a personal hell for me and a regret that I would carry for the rest of my life. As we all know too well, there are tragedies that happen in an instant, and in those cases there isn’t time to feel grateful or feel regret. ALS is unique in the amount of time one has for either, and I am fortunate to have the privilege of gratefulness in my life right now. I want anyone else who finds themselves in my position to have that same privilege.
In February of 2017, a few weeks after I was diagnosed, I heard a radio ad for life insurance on my drive in to work. I don’t remember what company it was for (obviously it wasn’t too effective), but the ad was one woman speaking to a friend of hers about what she would do, what would happen to their family, and how she would pay the mortgage and bills if something happened to her husband because they didn’t have life insurance. While I got the message, I didn’t like the ad because it was all scripted- they weren’t real people and it wasn’t a real conversation. It was acted, or more accurately over-acted, and I’m almost positive I said out loud “I can do a better ad than that.” If not, those were the exact words in my mind.
Several months went by, and the idea flitted in my mind occasionally about contacting SelectQuote, the agency from which we bought our policies, to explain what having life insurance can REALLY mean. It was only after some estate planning, when our advisor recommended that we should now get additional coverage for Johnna, that I checked their website and saw a link for “share your story.” In late July of 2017, I sent a brief email with a proposed script for a radio ad to our agent there and suggested she pass it on to the appropriate person in the company.
That’s when things got interesting. It turned out that the Senior Creative Director there had been looking for personal stories to highlight in their advertising, although I doubt he had envisioned this particular scenario. From the beginning, he understood the message we wanted to share and how important it was to us.
After a couple of months of bouncing the idea around and not getting very far internally our contact suggested doing a Skype interview with us in early October, 2017, from which he would put together a concept for a commercial. We did that interview on October 10th, and the result was that everyone in the creative department there loved what we did but more evidence of the ad's effectiveness was needed.
Authorization was given for a test spot to be filmed that would then be analyzed by a marketing research firm they use to see if it would be effective as an ad campaign. We filmed this spot in a local hotel lobby on November 10th, with some additional footage with the kids shot in our home. A producer and cameraman, both from Toronto, along with our contact, came in during a cold and blustery day. By mid-December the sample commercial was “in test” as they call it.
Finally, on January 3rd, 2018, our contact told us that the SelectQuote Board approved the campaign and we were ready to move full steam ahead!
Filming day arrived on February 9th, 2018. Our Creative Director, two executives from SelectQuote in San Francisco, a make-up artist and a production assistant hired locally, a director, producer, and assistant from LA, and camera and lighting guys from NYC-10 people in all-packed into our house for the day. While the kids were at school they rearranged the furniture, lit a fire in the fireplace, and set us up in our family room with 6(!) cameras on us. We recorded both video and audio-only segments based primarily on the original script I had written (in some cases the exact words) as well as other conversations we’d had over the previous months. The kids came in later after school for some brief family scenes of video only.
Overall it was a great team to work with but we were certainly exhausted that night. I chose to say my name is “David Bryant” in the ad (Bryant is my middle name) because as proud as I am of my last name, I know from a lifetime of experience that it is tough for people to process, and I didn’t want that to interfere with or distract from the message that I was trying to get across.
The TV commercial above made its debut on May 3, 2018, and the radio ad a few days earlier on April 23rd. It had been over a year since that Light Bulb Moment and a longer-than-expected route to the finish line, but we are proud of the results. Although we sincerely hope that no family ends up in a similar situation as ours, we do hope that, if they do, they'll have the protection of life insurance because of this campaign.
It is hugely ironic, that I, the “keep your private life private, never had a Facebook/Instagram/LinkedIn account, and by the way don’t put our kids’ pictures online or even use their names” guy, ended up in a major ad campaign with my wife, filmed in our home, showing our children, while discussing one of the most personal subjects there is.
All I can say is that situations change and my gut told me this was the right thing to do. Right for the people who should have life insurance but don’t, and need a harsh reality to nudge them into doing the right thing. Right for raising awareness about this disease by showing someone in their prime who has it, and keeping that awareness ongoing if the campaign is successful and maintained. Right for possibly opening doors that may be out there for me. If it does, and one of those doors keeps ALS from taking their dad, well that would ultimately be the best right for our kids.