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NY State PSA Contest – Winner Prediction – Vote

NY state is running a “Wear a Mask” PSA contest and got 600+ submissions. The top 5 are in a runoff. Voting closes tomorrow, so cast your vote!

UPDATED 6/1/2020 (WINNER ANNOUNCED, IT WASN’T WHO I PREDICTED) The data predicted a different winner, but I’m pleased to say that the winner was #4 Bunny Lake Films (my favorite in the original post below). Hope to see the winning video running in places.

Unlike an election this voting system doesn’t have measures in place to make sure only NY state residents vote. On the other hand one thing this vote has in common with a traditional election is that marketing matters, or as we like to say at my “day job” company Didit, “marketing is everything.” Marketing generally leaves a trail and that means just like in elections, we can predict winners. So, I’ll jump in and just for fun predict winners not based on creative merit alone, but based on the level of marketing being exerted by the producers of each video.


YouTube is an easy data point to look at and clearly the view counts on videos are a proxy not only for the native popularity of any particular PSA but also the level of marketing driving those views. Therefore, as of this writing, I’m ranking the PSAs based on their YouTube views.

Number 1: You Can Still Smile – Natalia Bougadellis

When I asked her some interview questions, Natalia indicated: “Sorry Kevin we are working 24/7 to promote this can’t answer this right now.” Clearly her promotion is driving views and its therefore likely its also driving votes. I’d be surprised if she didn’t win, but it’s a close race with #2. Edit: after publication, Natalia forwarded answers to my questions from the co-director Emory Parker. Emory had this to say:

1) What drove you to enter the contest? We saw the announcement and immediately wanted to enter. First of all we believe in the cause. That is very important to us. We want everyone to be safe and to work together towards re-opening the city as soon as possible.

2)Did you have an idea for the PSA before you started working on storyboards or was it an evolution? We just wanted to showcase the beautiful diversity of our state. We shot mostly in NYC but a few of the people were upstate and on Long Island. You can’t really tell because we are focusing on their eyes and smiles. I think it is very important to stay positive and keep working together to open our state safely!

3)Are you active in any other PSA creation, or is this your first? This is our first PSA. We are a very young company and are just starting out. This experience has been amazing to see how the audience reacts to different types of commercials. This has been an amazing learning experience. All the videos are exceptional and I believe that we have all succeeded to spread the message we indented to. They are all unique in different ways and we are very proud to be amongst this inspiring group.

Number 2: We are Compassion. We are New York – Skyline99 Studios

Tom from the Skyline99 team answered the same questions this way:

1. Before we noticed the contest existed, my friend and co-owner Greg and I were going to create something pertaining to this Pandemic experience, but we didn’t really know what it was to be. So we created this business, Skyline99 Studios within this COVID19 situation

Once we saw the contest we released what an exciting platform to show our passion for creativity and express our sincerest message possible. We never really thought we’d make it this far. 

2. This PSA was a combination of texts and long phone calls of brainstorming. 

All storyboarding (in this case) was concocted right from our brains to our cameras. We wish we had time to story board properly to be fair. But from day 1, this final PSA we created was 99% exactly what we had in mind. it told a very personal story for us. A story within a story… so to speak.

3.So together, under Skyline99 Studios… it is our first, but separately we’ve been creating and filming for over 30+ years in total. But yes, it was our first PSA. 

Number 3: Do The Right Thing – Ian Bell

1. I was sitting on some footage from a prior project that I shot just before the official New York Pause, “New York You Got This: An Elegy” which you can watch on my Vimeo, and thought it may make the beginnings of a decent PSA. I had to go out on my bicycle for a couple additional evenings of photography because I didn’t quite have what I needed yet. I wanted to feature front line workers, but also regular New Yorkers who were showing support and wearing masks. 

2. The spot evolved a bit when I got into the editing room, as it always does, but I had always planned to use Governor Cuomo’s words. I felt that people wanted to hear from him, and still do. He’s a grounded, fact-based and reassuring voice during all of this, but I didn’t want the messaging to just be “wear a mask.” I always think people are less likely to be persuaded if they feel as though they’re being told what to do, or being given a directive. Ask any advertiser and they’ll say positive emotions always get better engagement. It might be a harder road to get there, but it’s always more effective. So I tried to do what I think Governor Cuomo has tried to do, and that’s to put the trust in the people. Show them that what they’re doing actually makes a difference. And it does. New York has shown that. All of the success we’ve had in with squashing the curve in New York that has eluded other parts of the country is a direct result of each New Yorker’s individual action. They made this happen. So why not put them front and center? It’s about US at the end of the day. And we are the ones best equipped to help us. 

3. This is my first PSA so far, unless you count a parody PSA I made years ago for a food delivery app. It was a really interesting assignment, but a 0:30 second deliverable is tricky. Hats off to filmmakers who do this on the reg. At the end of the day I just hope the message resonates. Please wear a mask when you’re around other people. It really really does make all the difference. 

Number 4: We ❤ NY – Bunny Lake Films

While Bunny Lake films was my personal favorite and my vote, I don’t predict them winning as the YouTube data indicates far less views than the top two who are neck-and-neck. However they were kind enough to answer my questions, and the answers are inspiring, so those are below the video.

What drove you to enter the contest?

Aliya Naumoff: We actually had a zoom meeting before this contest about making our own “Wear a Mask” video to encourage everyone to wear a mask. We really believe in the cause, and want to help do whatever it takes to get New York up and running againCeline Danhier: The past few months have been extremely trying emotionally, as we have all been isolated from one another. Also, many of my close friends have lost their jobs, had difficulty with getting unemployment or have been sick with coronavirus. There was a lot of confusion and misinformation floating around about the importance of wearing masks. The CDC recommended using a mask weeks after the quarantine went into effect. As we know now, wearing a mask is an effective way to reduce the spread of the virus, especially when people who are asymptomatic can spread COVID-19 without even realizing it. Because wearing a mask is so important to everybody’s health and safety, I really wanted to normalize the idea of wearing a mask, and show that as a community we all need to do it together in order for New York to reopen and stay open. Our idea was to give an optimistic tone to the ad and send a clear message: New Yorkers care about each other and we will get through this together. We did it after 9/11 and after Hurricane Sandy. We can do it again.

Did you have an idea for the PSA before you started working on storyboards or was it an evolution?

Aliya Naumoff: We wanted to represent the severity of our situation, but maintain a positive message and tone to encourage everyone to participate in the solution. We didn’t want to make it feel like we were lecturing, but instead wanted to be encouraging. We had a deck to represent the overall feeling, but our subject’s characters shined through and really showed the spirit of New York. 

Celine Danhier:The contest was announced on May 5th and ended on May 15th. So, the short time to create a spot was challenging. We started with the very basic concept to do something creative and different, not like a standard PSA as we’ve already seen those on TV and they haven’t been effectively working because so many people are not wearing masks. The concept then evolved into a script and treatment and then we turned to our friends and community of creatives to make it all happen. We collaborated with animator Mike Perry (Broad City) as his use of animation with its color and movement embodies so perfectly the electric energy of New York. We then improvised with the New Yorkers appearing in the PSA that we met in different boroughs while filming. We knew that it was important to capture the diversity of New York in our ad as we really wanted our ad to resonate with all New Yorkers and inspire them to wear a mask. 

As an immigrant from France, I really wanted the video to echo the city’s feeling of momentum, creativity and acceptance that I felt when I first arrived 13 years ago, and I wanted to show the diversity that the city offers in front of the camera. We are New Yorkers, we are New York Tough and we will work together to stop the spread of the virus.

Are you active in any other PSA creation, or is this your first?

Aliya Naumoff:We worked together making a viral PSA campaign to help encourage people to vote for the midterm elections. We made 30 videos to represent various social issues and encourage people to vote. This was not our first, but it’s really been an exciting collaboration. We are grateful to help represent New York, and encourage a positive solution to re-starting our economy.

Celine Danhier: Aliya and myself teamed up in the past to direct a video campaign for “The Last Weekend” – to inspire people to volunteer and get others out to vote during the last weekend before the 2018 elections. The video was rather different as it was entirely shot in a studio and included a variety of celebrities including Tracee Ellis Ross, Senator Elizabeth Warren or Mandy Patikin. Voter turnout was higher nationwide than it had been in a long time – so I think that PSA worked. Hopefully, this one will too. 

Number 5: That Guy – Plastic Tree Productions

Michael Marchand from Plastic Tree indicated: “We are here for anybody or any company that needs to get messages out to their communities. We have put together social distancing practices while shooting and we assign an on set social distancing producer on ever job. This producer will oversee our social distancing procedures and hand out our provided PPE. As well as be a go to person on set if any cast or crew is concerned about social distancing and can help come up with on the spot solutions to keep everyone safe.”

The Plastic Tree folks had a second submission and since they woked so hard on it, I’ll share it below.

Regardless of who the winner is, we all win by watching the PSAs and heeding the message, no matter where in the world we are.

Kevin Leehttps://givingforward.org
Kevin Lee is Co-Founder & Executive Chairman of Didit a leading digital-first marketing firm started in 1996, and CEO of the eMarketing Association. He is also the founder and President of GivingForward.org a cause marketing nonprofit. Kevin transformed Didit from an SEO/SEM boutique agency into a full-service digital-first marketing firm through 11 acquisitions. Kevin invents marketing technology solutions across search, social and programmatic, He also launched stand-alone platforms including We-Care ($8+ million for nonprofits via cause-marketing) & PowerProfiles; written 4 books, engaged in 500+speaking engagements, and published 700+ articles. Kevin received his MBA from Yale and lives in Scarsdale with his family.


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