Back to the Future of 2009

Look Back to Look Forward

By Randy Murray

One of the advantages to writing these blogs for Throwback Thursday, or even just looking back a few years, is the clarity. Let’s face it, 20/20 hindsight is awesome. When we are looking backward, we are all visionaries. The real trick is using that to see anything the future has to offer. I do have a story to share about predicting the future, and while I am not a futurist, I did work for one and can predict with confidence that those who read to the end of the blog will know his name.

Group Close Up

The Power of Empathy

In 2009, looking forward was a bit scary. I did not see the Great Recession coming; few did. When it hit, everything about telling United Way’s story changed. People who gave generously to United Way for years were now losing their homes and looking at United Way to help them. Many with jobs, often those attending United Way fundraising events, were worried about how long they would have their jobs. Their homes. It was scary times. As storytellers, we had to craft a story that fit those times.

Strength in technique, structure, style and touch makes good storytellers great storytellers, yet it is empathy that is a storyteller’s most important skill. Understanding how your audience feels when they sit down to watch what you have created is more powerful than any trick of the trade. In 2009, most of us felt blindsided, vulnerable and cautious, yet we still cared about other people; we knew the need was even greater.

Cute Baby

Pragmatic Together

As we crafted United Way’s message, we decided to shoot for two key takeaways. First, we wanted to leverage the communal aspects of United Way. We wanted our viewers to feel like supporting United Way made you part of the team, “one of us” standing together. Second, but no less important, we wanted everyone to understand the logic of United Way. When times are tight and we are all feeling exposed, a left-brain approach can be more powerful than an emotional appeal.


Instead of reading a description of what we did, I encourage you to take a few minutes to watch the video on Vimeo or YouTube. You will notice the difference between this video and the previous year’s work. You might also notice that Andrew Benson and I made one of our few on-camera appearances. Andrew is less camera-shy than I, but we both stepped up to be part of this video. For those of you who do not know Andrew, he is an incredible talent who we have been fortunate to employ for several years. While he has moved from Phoenix, we still represent him as a director. He is a super talented, creative and conscientious guy. Please check out his reel. For those who do know Andrew, you know United Way is a passion of his. He played a key role in the development of Gen U as well as many of the United Way videos while he was here.

Andrew VSUW

Hypocritical Cameo

For those of you who know me, you may know that I am not a fan of commercials at movie theaters. If I am watching something for free on TV or online, it is only fair to subject me to a commercial, but if I am paying to see a movie or a show on a subscription service, am the paying side of our deal and they are not entitled to resell my time. It is a double fee and it just seems wrong to me. I have embarrassed myself publicly, yes – standing in the front of the house during the seemingly endless commercials, explaining this premises. So it was with great irony, if not hypocrisy, that I shrunk into my movie theater seat one evening when the commercial from this campaign played and I saw myself on the screen. I had to swallow my pride and accept this little embarrassment in the hope that it brought more understanding and support for United Way.

Randy VSUW

Futurist From The Past

Since we are talking about seeing the future in this #TBT blog, I am going to throw way back to the mid 1980s. For about a year, I worked for a financial software development company called Sendero. Great people and a really wonderful experience. I was there because of a man named Bob Long. Bob was brilliant, generous with both his time and his advice. Bob was a futurist. When he was President of the American Bankers Association, Bob’s vision shaped how we bank today. Most notable was his insight on the ATM. Bob could see what the future held and he made a very handsome living doing so. I once asked him how a person goes about making a living as a futurist. He said knowing what the future holds is easy; the hard part is knowing when it will come about.

Gifts Looking Forward

Bob gave me the gift of looking forward to the future with hope and excitement. In 1985, he was designing artificially intelligent diagnostic video applications that are still not yet as big a part of our lives as I think they will be. Because of his example, I am looking at the future of storytelling and I see technology making my craft more powerful. Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are just a couple of exciting developments for storytelling. If you are not familiar with how much fun VR is, please come to the First Studio open house Friday, January 29th, let us know here at RMP that you read about VR in our blog and we will give you a special gift (while supplies last). In a very real sense, it will be a gift from my friend and mentor, the futurist Bob Long. And maybe we can work together to find a way to use these new tools to help United Way continue to do the good work they do for our shared future.

Big Group Waving

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.