Q&A: Elizabeth Banks on Her Partnership With the American Heart Association

She's also directing a Super Bowl ad

Headshot of Kristina Monllos

Are you more likely to care about the health of your heart if the message comes from a funny ad? The American Heart Association is hoping that you are.  

The AHA has partnered with Elizabeth Banks' digital media company, WhoHaha, which works to promote funny content by women, on a new campaign for its Healthy for Good movement. Three video shorts—"Gym Hero" (see below),  "Food is my Boyfriend" and "Don't be a Zombie"—were created to help educate Americans about how making small life changes can benefit their hearts. 

"The American Heart Association is thrilled to work with WhoHaHa, and we're excited about the opportunity to engage up-and-coming women comediennes in content that highlights the AHA's heart health messages in a fun and entertaining way," said Meighan Girgus, chief marketing and programs officer at the American Heart Association, in a statement.

The content will be distributed on DailyMotion and on WhoHaha's social channels. The "Gym Heros" spot was written by and stars Deirdre Devlin and Vana Dabney of female sketch comedy team Honest Monster. It was directed by Kai Collins and Deena Adar from production company Quiet Duke. 

Adweek caught up with Banks to see why she wanted to partner with the AHA and whether she's got any Super Bowl plans. 

Adweek: Why partner with the American Heart Association? What does this do for WhoHaha? 

Elizabeth Banks: What's so great about this collaboration in my mind is that I sort of got my start directing as a woman in Hollywood with the American Heart Association. I directed and starred in a video for them a few years ago now, and it was very successful and won some awards and was one of the first times that the AHA used humor to hook in the audience about heart disease in women. I feel like this is a way to sort of pass the torch to other content creators.

Are you looking to connect more female creators with brands through WhoHaha? If so, does this partnership help? 

This collaboration feels like a case study for how we can interact with brands. This is very much on message for WhoHaha—like let's use humor and let's change the world. Let's focus on women and women's issues. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women. It beats the top four cancers combined, and it's an issue that really needs attention. So it's personal to me on that level. At the same time, it's a great collaboration with a brand that sort of connects them to our content community, this group of women that we're fans of, that we're bringing into our offices every day, and we're brainstorming with.

So you make an effort to have the spots directed and written by women? 

Yeah, this was produced and directed by Kai Collins and Deena Adar, who have a comedy trope, Quiet Duke, and we've featured some content from Quiet Duke on our site already. They are really great at production, so we wanted to promote them. It was created and written by Deirdre Devlin and Vana Dabney, who have a group called Honest Monster—everybody's got a group [laughs]—and we were fans of their content as well. They're very likeable and relatable and feel really real and still fun. We were also able to put other people featured on the platform into the content as well. So Alex Lynn Ward, who we do a ton of content with, Laura Hartley, Jamie Janek and Nina Daniels are in it.

It was just a really great way to bring our community together and give them a common goal. We shot the whole thing over three days last month, and we had the editing team on it. All women, women, women, women. I don't want to say the entire crew was women—I recall a male sound person—but we really do our best, especially when it comes to the content creation and the leadership roles on set. Those are all women. 

How did the content creation work for this effort?  

We sort of took the research that the AHA has and translated it into funny concepts. The research tells us that if you have a workout buddy, someone that you are responsible for, you are going to work out more. We took that concept and put it into "Gym Heros." The idea of literally dragging your ass to work out, I just loved that. It feels really relatable and it goes to the heart of women's issues, making it relatable to women and women's lives, integrating activity where you can in your daily life.

Will you be in any Super Bowl spots this year? Should we look out for you?

I actually directed a Super Bowl ad for Persil, the laundry detergent, and I'm really excited for that. Speaking to the whole notion women don't get to direct a lot of commercials, it was a really fun experience.

@KristinaMonllos kristina.monllos@adweek.com Kristina Monllos is a senior editor for Adweek.