A Shuttered New York City Bar and Its Resilient Owner Star in This Moving Facebook Ad

The short film, created by Droga5, is part of the platform’s push to support small businesses

Still from Facebook ad
The shutdowns caused by Covid-19 forced Coogan's to close its doors earlier this year. Facebook
Headshot of Minda Smiley

It’s estimated that roughly one-third of New York City’s small businesses may never reopen, according to data from the Partnership for New York City. One such business is Coogan’s, a beloved 35-year-old Irish pub in Manhattan’s Washington Heights known for its eclectic clientele.

Coogan’s owners officially closed its doors in April, just weeks after the city’s restaurants and bars were forced to shut down as a result of Covid-19. One of Coogan’s three owners, Peter Walsh, is now starring in a Facebook campaign in which he reflects on what it was like running Coogan’s and his determination to carry on its spirit.

In the ad, footage of Coogan’s is interspersed with clips of Walsh running throughout the city. A melancholy cover of Gloria Gaynor’s “Survive” plays throughout most of it.

Created by Droga5 and directed by Miles Jay, the campaign is part of Facebook’s push to support small businesses. Earlier this year, the platform said it will offer $100 million in cash grants and ad credits to small businesses impacted by Covid-19.

Coogan’s owners have set up a fund in partnership with United Way of New York City, a nonprofit that helps the city’s low-income residents, to help other businesses that are struggling right now. Facebook has pledged to match up to $100,000 in donations.  

“The film is intended to be a reminder from Facebook that we all have a part to play in the survival of the places we love,” Kate Rouch, vice president of marketing at Facebook, said. “In this work, the special meaning Coogan’s held with the local neighborhood became our symbol for the fight many small businesses and their communities face against equally uncertain futures.”

Droga5 was tasked with shaping Facebook’s “corporate narrative” last year. Tom McQueen, associate creative director at Droga5, said a New York Times article about Coogan’s closure spurred the idea for the campaign.

“When we all read it, we just knew this was a place people needed to know about,” he said. “The work needed to accurately reflect the love people had for this institution and integrate that into our story in seamless and imaginative ways.”

George McQueen, associate creative director at Droga5, said the short film was shot in late July by Oscar-nominated cinematographer Bradford Young. In addition to filming, he said the team sourced archival imagery of Coogan’s and user-generated content from Facebook to include in the video.

“There was a mountain of amazing photos, footage and gratitude for this place to pore through,” he said.

Facebook’s small business efforts come as the platform continues to crack down on content in response to criticism. In July, more than 1,000 companies paused advertising on Facebook in hopes of putting pressure on the company to stop the spread of hate speech and misinformation.

This summer, it’s taken steps to clean up its content. In August, for instance, Facebook removed a Fox News interview shared by Donald Trump’s account in which the president inaccurately stated that children are “almost immune” to the coronavirus.


Director: Miles Jay

Production Company: SMUGGLER

Executive Producers: Patrick Milling-Smith, Brian Carmody, Allison Kunzman

Agency: Droga5

Agency Producer: Mike Hasinoff

Line Producer: Erin Wile

DP: Bradford Young

Production Designer: Akin McKenzie

Edit: Work Editorial

Editor: Ben Jordan

Post: Blacksmith

Colorist: Joe Gawler

Color Company: Harbor Picture Company

@Minda_Smiley minda.smiley@adweek.com Minda Smiley is an agencies reporter at Adweek.