The Alberta Association of Municipal Districts & Counties has a rich history in Alberta. Started in 1909, the AAMDC represents and advocates for 69 rural municipal governments across the province. They sought, with funding from the Rural Alberta Development Fund, a promotional video that raises awareness of rural Alberta communities, their innovative practices, and collaborative successes, all while educating the viewers on the vital importance of the industries that call rural Alberta home. According to a 2013 Conference Board of Canada Study, Rural Alberta contributed $77.4 billion towards Canada’s economy in 2009!
AAMDC intended to premiere the over 15 minute video to their 600+ guests at their 2015 fall convention, so it was a no-brainer that we’d need to keep the video entertaining. After a provincial election that saw a new government take victory after 44 years, there was some concern among members that the new government may not understand the value and needs of rural Alberta. Considering these and Alberta’s “city folk” populations were the unofficial audience, a humorous approach seemed ideal. We definitely wanted to keep the tone as non-confrontational as possible.
We pitched approaching this project as a road trip, an alternative spin on the Hero’s Journey-type story structure. The AAMDC divides the province into five districts and it was important to visit each of them. This gave us the opportunity to show off the beauty of rural Alberta (hello, aerial), get up close and personal with some of the industries, while also crafting a story. We didn’t want a super professional narrator since the character was a member of the production crew and AAMDC employee.
The call to adventure started when the narrator’s “urban” friend challenged him and claimed that rural Alberta is less valuable to Alberta’s economy than the cities. The narrator invited this friend – Doug – to travel with him and meet the people, places and industries of rural Alberta for himself. Well, Doug no-showed, but the crew decided to teach him a lesson anyways by bringing a life sized cardboard cut-out of him along.
We held a casting call and hired local model Ryan Lysachok as Doug. We had seven life-size cardboard cut-outs printed (Thanks West-Star Signs) and off we went. We were so grateful to all of our participants for going along with the “Doug” concept. We never imagined the industry partners would have so much fun with the Doug concept. At Alberta Newsprint Company, Doug was taped to a paper roll, and at Lafarge he was carried all the way up the new kiln so staff could take selfies with him.
We wanted the video to have a map element so that viewers would have an idea of where we were travelling in the province. So we created an animation modelled off of a smart phone map app. The post-production team sourced music that had modern, indie sound, as well as a bit of country twang.
We were so thrilled that our clients loved the creative concept and even more thrilled when asked us for our leftovers “Doug’s” so they could incorporate him into the Fall Convention. The video was received really well, with lots of laughs and nice comments on Twitter and Facebook. Doug was even brought up on stage, and during the first intermission there were line-ups at the photo-booth where people were snapping photos of themselves with Doug.
We’re so proud of this project and thankful to our clients at AAMDC who were so helpful and patient with us during this huge undertaking. We’re also so thankful to all the community and industry partners for opening their hearts and doors to our team.