I can say with great confidence that 2020 didn’t turn out how anyone had planned (and 2021 doesn’t seem to be doing us any favors yet). The world struggled to process and adapt to the now-clichéd “new normal.” At best, 2020 brought homeschooling, cancelling vacations, socially distanced get-togethers, and trying to figure out the best lighting for your Zoom calls at the kitchen table. At worst, last year can be summed up as a true tragedy with people facing the loss of their loved ones, their homes, and their jobs. 

One of the most succinct and best perspectives I’ve found on the conundrum that was 2020 was, “Not the year you thought you’d have.” And this can be applied to every aspect of our current realities, including our work and projections for 2021. 

Like all sectors of work, the advertising industry has been pushed to adapt. Carefully planned campaigns were altered to work with stock footage or animation, or even scrapped entirely due to social distancing restrictions and stay-at-home orders. But as I wrote about in a previous blog, we’re adapting to working and creating new content during the pandemic. 

One such example at Amélie of adapting a previously planned project was our work on the City and County of Denver’s High Costs campaign. The High Costs campaign is an initiative by Denver to educate youth on the ‘high costs’ of using marijuana underage, and encourages youth to make the responsible decision not to use. We had formed a partnership with TEDxMileHigh to produce an Adventure series, with grand plans to put on four free, in-person events for youth to participate in, where we would expand their horizons to new ideas and experiences, all the while sharing our campaign messaging with them. 

As you can imagine, the optimism we had in late March 2020 to keep these events in-person quickly fizzled, replaced with emotions of panic and uncertainty. This was our big event for the year! What were we going to do?

But pushing through those negative emotions, we saw an opportunity. An opportunity to hop on the virtual bandwagon and create Adventures that could be enjoyed safely by youth in the comfort of their own homes, even in on-demand formats if they missed the event itself. And in one Adventure’s case, the opportunity to create videos that could be more widely shared with students, educators, youth-serving organizations, and other individuals in a capacity to educate youth. 

Now, we had never hosted anything of this scale virtually. TEDxMileHigh hadn’t either. So we worked together to build a plan, learning as we went: which Adventures would be online and which would be pre-recorded, how to best promote this different style of Adventure, how to get parent/guardian permission for youth to participate in a virtual event, and the list goes on. 

As with any project, we had some hiccups, in one case opting to shift an event we had previously planned to be pre-recorded to a virtual set-up instead, just a week before we were set to film. Of course, it helps immensely to have a client who was incredibly flexible and supportive of our always-changing plan and efforts, and a trusted production company willing to change course. 

We knew we had to be flexible and give grace to each other, as we were all doing the best we could to plan with the unknown hanging over our heads. With this, we were able to host all of our Adventures, engaging Denver youth in some really great experiences and providing them with new knowledge and connections. 

I am a planner to my core, and I don’t really care for things that don’t go according to my plan. But something I’ve learned working in advertising and especially from 2020, is that NOTHING goes exactly according to plan. And that’s OK. It’s important to be flexible, able to adapt, and communicate, pivoting as needed. 

2020 certainly wasn’t the year we thought we would have, but as with our High Costs Adventures, there was still the opportunity to make it great and build upon our learnings for the future. 

Katelyn Aberle, Senior Account Manager