TBT to Y2K and 75 Years of VSUW!

Celebrating 75 Years of Helping

By Randy Murray

In 2000, we did our fifth United Way video and looking back, I realize that these videos are very much like episodes in a TV series. All TV shows, networks and all forms of media really strive to create communities. We do a lot of work with Discovery ID; their fans are called “ID Addicts.” ID Addicts are not unlike other media based communities, like Trekkers or Deadheads. People enjoy being connected by the things in their life that give them joy. And we are using the tools of persuasion to highlight a community that supports Valley of the Sun United Way.

Bi-racial girl

For United Way, we tell stories, share knowledge and engage the heart, all to create a community of people who are willing to sacrifice to make the world a better place. As I watched this video again, I realized that we were very deliberate in our use of common tools of marketing and advertising – or, if you prefer, the tools of persuasion, seduction and even propaganda. These tools included association, framing, testimonials, fear, desire, bandwagon and even seduction. While this is not Star Wars, as I go through this campaign video, I can still point out how we employed these tools for the forces of good.

Why 2K?

In the year 2000, there was a very interesting Y2K scare. For those who weren’t around or don’t remember, it was thought that our computers and computer systems would all crash because most programs just used two digits to denote the year, like 98 for 1998 and 99 for 1999. The assumption was that they were not going to be able to manage the change from counting up from 99 to 00, as in 2000. RMP was actually hired to do a number of videos to let clients and employees know what precautions had been taken to protect their computers from crashing at the stoke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. One computer expert I was working with at Intel was so convinced that chaos was inevitable that he was stockpiling ammunition. He told me, “Bullets will be the new currency.” Obviously he was wrong, and the ‘collapse of society as we knew it’ failed to deliver on its promise.

Kids at Computers

Yet despite the threat of a worldwide societal collapse in the year 2000, United Way continued to keep the promise of improving society. And 2000 was their 75th anniversary here in Arizona.

The Right Crowd

According to Catherine Hudgins at Demand Media, the advertising tool of Association relies on associating a product, service or company with a famous person, catchy jingle, desirable state of being, or powerful emotion to create a strong psychological connection in the customer. The advertising and marketing industries have been using Association as a tool since the beginning of time, and it is still one of the most effective tools of persuasion available. So to help celebrate 75 years of helping the community, we associated the United Way brand with some fairly big local hitters: Arizona Diamondbacks GM Buck Showalter, Phoenix Suns announcer Al McCoy, “Wallace and Ladmo” creator and star Bill Thompson, football star and coach Danny White, meteorologist Sean McLaughlin and Governor Rose Mofford. They all helped celebrate United Way’s anniversary on camera. None of these local celebrities had the sway of a national figure like Michael Jordan, but they did make you feel comfortable joining the bandwagon.


And while “playing to the heart” is usually more effective than “playing to the brain,” we decided to take advantage of this milestone to bring up the issue of stability. Being around “before it was called Arizona State University” or “before there was air conditioning” is impressive and comforting. It says a lot about United Way’s longevity. So if you can’t watch the whole seven-minute video, you should watch this clip of the opening 25 seconds featuring all these local celebrities. It’s a great flashback.


The Right Things

That being said, I do hope you take a few minutes to watch the whole video. While it is long by today’s standards, it moves quickly. More importantly, this video tells four powerful stories. It starts with kids at the Golden Gate Community Center and the Early Childhood Development Program. If you’ve been following along the last few weeks, you know I have a penchant for putting cute kids in these videos – I know it’s always a good idea to hook the viewers early with a lot of super cute kids.

From there, we include a personal story on stroke education and prevention. I love this couple; they seem so real. Their story feels like one that could happen to anyone at any time.

Operation Stroke, Dr. James Frey, Barrow Neurological Institute

We follow up with a story of a mom in crisis who needed to protect her children from herself. It’s a touching story that shows how just a little help can make a huge difference to a family.

We end the video with a fun story about a couple who adopted eight special needs boys. That’s right, eight! With special needs! And when you see them on camera, you can tell that the mom really knows how to keep things running. After meeting her just two times, I suspected she could have been the CEO of any major corporation. That woman has the right stuff, and in my opinion, is using it for the right things. It is great that United Way was there to support people like her.



Beat the Drum

To tie these four stories together, we decided to use music as the bridge. Like last year, we turned to the guys at Big U Music to create original music that could fit into the real world of our video and they created a percussive score. Kids beat walls, pounded on drums, bounced on trampolines, shook things and generally had fun with this little hook. As a director, I enjoyed incorporating the musical element into different scenes. In this second clip, you can see how we used it at the end of the video.

One of the best parts of doing these videos is recruiting people to help. Watch for the cameo of my son, Ryan, playing a bongo in the waiting area of St. Joe’s. Ryan worked on many of the videos in the grip or art departments, but in this one and last year’s, he served (as crew members do from time to time) as a background extra. If you remember, my daughter Lisa, along with many of her friends, served as talent in the 1999 video.

Drumming is used as a thread throughout this video. It also works as the theme of the video, and really of everything we have ever done for United Way. To beat the drum. To let people know about the great work United Way is doing in our community. If hope you are enjoying these little Throwback Thursday entries; I enjoy writing them. If you are, please pass the word. And please also let me know if you have any comments or suggestions as we continue to beat the drum.

Kids Playing Drums

To watch the full 2000 Campaign Video, go to Vimeo or YouTube. We hope you enjoy it!


Randy is an award-winning director and producer with a passion for helping others through the power of storytelling. He’s also a political junkie, loves college football, and enjoys performing random magic tricks for children he meets in the street.