Courtney B Vance, Stacy Title, Jonathan Penner at shoot for The Wisconsin Chapter of the ALS Association.

Hollywood Stars Align to Support ALS in New Pro Bono PSA Campaign

Great ideas can happen in seconds; bringing great ideas to life isn’t quite as instantaneous. But sometimes, the (Hollywood) stars align and years of experience pay off, making something that could be complicated, easy.

This was the case for Hoffman York Executive Creative Director, Dave Hanneken, whose 30-year-old Rolodex includes the names and numbers of people like Jerry Seinfeld, Charles Barkley, top commercial director Joe Pytka, and many more. Those types of contacts and his years of industry expertise helped him concept and execute an entire pro-bono video series for The Wisconsin Chapter of the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Association in just under 30 days-proving once again that we are all more connected than we realize – think three degrees of separation.

Hanneken, who has served on the leadership team and the Board of Directors for the ALS Association for more than 25 years after losing a friend to the disease, along with HY Creative Director Laurette Perlewitz, and ALS Wisconsin Executive Director Melanie Roach-Bekos, came together to create four powerful public service announcements (PSAs), to help raise awareness and funds for ALS.

It all started when Bekos lined-up an Emmy award-winning actor, Courtney B Vance, to be the keynote speaker at the chapter’s annual fundraising dinner in March 2019. The Hollywood actor’s mother lost her battle to ALS in 2018, so he had a vested interest in the cause. Securing a talent of such caliber got Hanneken and Perlewitz thinking: would he do some PSAs for the chapter as well? When Vance’s agent agreed, Hanneken dove into the aforementioned Rolodex and this Hollywood story became a true three-act play all its own.

The deadline was tight and with no budget for the project, everything had to be done efficiently and quickly. There was feverish scriptwriting and revisions. Favors were cashed-in as well as frequent flier miles. They secured a location, then lost that location. They secured a cameraman, then lost the cameraman. Flights were booked, flights were canceled. Then, Hanneken learned that Oscar-nominated director Stacy Title was diagnosed with ALS just over a year ago and managed to get her to agree to direct two of the four PSAs – free of charge! What’s more, Title had shot a film with Courtney B. Vance years earlier, so they knew one another. It seemed like it was all meant to be.

Being confined to a wheelchair and on a ventilator did not preclude Title from doing what she loves. Because she cannot speak, she uses a Tobii, a retina scanning machine that allows her to communicate via a laptop and electronic voice speaker. Title directed two spots, Hollywood Directors and ALS Effects.

Acclaimed director Andy Singer, who Hanneken had worked with on previous clients like UPS and American Family Insurance, co-directed with Title and directed two additional ALS PSAs, titled The Cure and Body Dead.

Body Dead helped sell out Evening of Hope, an event hosted by The ALS Association Wisconsin Chapter. The event included keynote speaker Vance and a night of dining, dancing, and bidding—featuring both silent and live auctions—to raise money to fight ALS and give hope to patients and their families. The event raised more than $400,000 for the Wisconsin Chapter.

The rest of the PSAs are rolling out March 14 through March 28 via social media.

“Marketing and spreading the word is the best way we can help non-profit organizations raise awareness of their cause,” said Troy Peterson, Chief Executive Officer. “We were happy to support ALS and the community and are hopeful that the stories told in these PSAs will both increase awareness for ALS and entice even more people to donate to help find a cure for the devastating disease,” Peterson added.

Hoffman York has experience supporting non-profits and causes that are important to our clients. See how we developed the award-winning Dirty Dogs campaign, for Wahl. The campaign has helped 110,000 dogs get cleaned up and ready for adoption. Interested in working with Hoffman York on your next campaign, please direct questions or inquiries to [email protected].

Photo: Pictured from left to right Jonathan Penner (Title’s husband, actor, writer and ex-Survivor contestant); Stacy Title and Courtney B. Vance

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