BBDO Asks Tough Questions for Peace Corps

ATLANTA Omnicom’s BBDO today launched its first work for the Peace Corps. “Life is calling. How far will you go?” is the theme of the national recruiting campaign and underscores President Bush’s call to service and his goal to expand the Peace Corps.

The Washington, D.C.-based international organization is committed to doubling its ranks within five years. Current enrollment totals about 7,000.

To that end, BBDO in Atlanta created 60-, 30- and 15-second versions of a single television commercial, a recruitment video and a variety of print materials that challenge potential volunteers by asking how far they would go to help someone.

Agency executive creative director Bill Pauls is also targeting network and station public service directors as a second target market. “They desperately need a quality product that reflects well on their channel,” he said.

With a limited budget (less than $500,000), BBDO enlisted production house Method in Los Angeles to create spots that station managers would want to run.

The effort relies on still photographs from the Peace Corps library and stock images from Corbis and Magnum. Pauls said director Russell Fell at Method developed a sense of movement by isolating foreground, middle ground and background elements. The effect, said Pauls, is two-and-a-half dimensional, “not quite still, not quite moving.”

Part of the effect comes from using images of lined maps that are extended metaphorically in close-ups of heavily creased faces of indigenous people. Pauls said the result suggests the journey that volunteers travel.

Because the Peace Corps wants to attract retirees and minorities as well as its core post-college twentysomethings, the work had to remain open to interpretation, said Pauls.

Actors Matthew McConaughey and Eduardo Verastegui provide voiceovers in English and Spanish for radio and TV public service announcements penned by copywriter Matt Ledoux that ask increasingly difficult questions of potential volunteers.

“How far would you go to help someone?” opens the spot. It continues, “To the end of your driveway? . . . Across a street? . . . An ocean? . . . 6,000 miles from home?”

“Because the questions keep challenging [the viewer], there will be people who get half way through the copy and say this isn’t for me,” said Pauls. “And that’s great. If they get through all the questions, they’re the ones the Peace Corps wants.”