The Winners of New York’s ‘Wear a Mask’ PSA Contest Have Been Revealed

A female-founded production company took home the top prize

Bunny Lake Films
Headshot of Minda Smiley

It appears New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has a penchant for creative contests.

Just months after asking New Yorkers to vote on their favorite license plate design, he once again urged the state’s residents to wield their voting power, this time for the “Wear a Mask New York Ad Contest” recently dreamed up by his daughter, Mariah Kennedy Cuomo.

The contest, which kicked off earlier this month, encouraged creative types to submit a 30-second PSA about the importance of wearing a mask in public. After receiving 600 submissions, the New York State Department of Health worked alongside Kennedy Cuomo to select five finalists before asking New Yorkers to choose the winning video, which was revealed today.

A film titled “We Love NY” came out on top, receiving the most of the nearly 200,000 votes cast. The PSA was created by female-founded production company Bunny Lake Films in partnership with directors Celine Danhier and Aliya Naumoff. Animator Mike Perry, whose work you might recognize from Comedy Central’s Broad City, also helped with the video.

The upbeat ad, which combines footage of the city with the many accents typically heard on its streets, gives a nod to the 7 p.m. citywide clap for essential workers that started in March and shows no signs of slowing down.

According to Danhier, she and Naumoff found out about the contest through Cuomo’s daily coronavirus briefings. They quickly decided to team up and create something they felt would resonate with New Yorkers.

“These past few months have been very emotional, and we have seen so much heartache and also so much heroism,” Danhier said. “I really wanted to emphasize the idea of New York coming together—we did it after 9/11 and we did it after Hurricane Sandy, and we can do it again. I wanted to bring back a sense of optimism for New York to reopen and stay open and also that sense of community.”

It was no easy feat, as Danhier said they only had 10 days to create the video after the contest was announced. They ended up shooting across three different boroughs and filming more than 100 people.

“We knew that it was essential to capture the diversity of New York,” she explained. “Filming was a unique challenge. We all practiced social distancing techniques, wore masks and followed other CDC recommended guidelines. Editing was another challenge as our editor was working remotely, emailing us edits—or sometimes we used Zoom and shared a screen. But it all came together in the end.”

For Naumoff, this kind of work “feels like a meaningful gesture of hope” for New York. “Going out and being a part of the solution makes me feel better,” she said.

Striking a slightly more somber tone is the runner-up, a PSA called “You Can Still Smile” created by Natalia Bougadellis and Emory Parker of Blue Slate Films.

Both videos will air throughout the state, although it’s unclear where exactly they will run.

You can check out the other finalists here. DDB Worldwide and McCann Health each submitted videos that made the Honorable Mentions list. (Interestingly, both include footage of the Statue of Liberty sporting a mask.)

Circus Maximus also threw its hat in the ring with a short film that has some fun with New York’s unofficial “code of conduct.”

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@Minda_Smiley Minda Smiley is an agencies reporter at Adweek.