Taxi’s Paul Lavoie on Tackling Important Issues with the Voilà Foundation
“We in this industry possess skillsets that have the power to change behaviour for the good.”
Those are the words of Paul Lavoie, co-founder of Taxi, who together with fellow Taxi co-founder Jane Hope and his daughter Catherine, has launched the Voilà Foundation to invest money, their creative abilities and network of contacts to address issues close to them.
Their first project is an ad campaign aimed at getting people to stop texting while driving. It’s no ordinary PSA though. One quarter of road-related injuries in the US involved young drivers and the Voilà team was well aware of millennials’ reluctance to take on board preachy ad messages. So they got them involved in the story.
Via the TimePlay app, which is usually used to keep cinema-goers entertained with quizzes and games prior to the pre-film ads, audiences are asked to decide how a teenager named Adam should spend his last day at school. The music he should listen to, the prank he should play, the people he should hang out with, and so forth. Viewers make the decisions by voting on the app - a majority of votes on the app makes the decision of how the film plays out on the big screen. Adam is at the wheel when he texts his friends one more question. He doesn’t see the red light and an oncoming vehicle smashes into his car.
This is when in a typical PSA a logo and message would appear. With this one, the audience is presented with one last choice - to press a button and pledge never to text and drive. When they do, their name appears on the screen along with everyone else who has made the commitment. Later they receive a text thanking them and asking them to challenge a friend they love to pledge as well.
LBB’s Addison Capper caught up with Paul to find out more about this project and the future plans of the Voilà Foundation...
LBB> Let’s talk a bit about the foundation… what inspired you, Jane and Catherine to launch it? What are your biggest aims with the Voilà Foundation?
PL> Voila Foundation (voilafoundation.org) is a family project. We want to set an example and seed the future generations of our family with the instinct of giving back. And hopefully inspire others.
We want our kids and their kids from a young age to understand that they are part of a larger community and their actions can really make a tangible difference in this world.
We also want to support the causes we are most passionate about.
Our mission: The Voila foundation provides a unique combination of creative thinking and financial support to help solve issues affecting society through direct involvement in projects and programs aimed at delivering measurable change.
I set out to do the first project. Catherine and Jane are working on their own. Once we have three successful case studies we will then optimise and proceed to the next stage and launch our site and challenge a larger group of creative thinkers to join us in solving other social issues.
LBB> I haven’t had the opportunity to download the app tied to your first campaign and try it out - can you just tell us and our readers how it works? It’s tied into another cinema app, right?
PL> The app is called TimePlay. It connects a user’s mobile device to a server which broadcasts player inputs on a second screen in real time and provides immediate individual feedback. The server records player performance and sends prizes directly to the mobile device’s Mystuff folder within the app.
LBB> When did you decide to add that interactive element in? What does it offer the campaign that a standard PSA couldn’t?
PL> When I first heard of TimePlay it was and still is mostly used in the context of gaming and quizzes before the trailers start at movie theatres. I saw the opportunity of storytelling and approached Rick Vincent from TimePlay to see if something like that was possible and it was. I started thinking about creating an interactive story. We’ve seen this online but to my knowledge it had never been done successfully in a public forum.
Completely separate from that thought, I was driving and listening to the radio about a story of a young girl, the same age as my daughter Catherine, who became a paraplegic due to a car crash caused by texting and driving. Her text at the moment of the crash was to her boyfriend and it read, “the sandwiches are in the fridge”.
That really stunned me. I pulled over to the side of the road and called Catherine and asked her if she ever texted while driving? She replied, “yep”. I said me too and shared the story. We then pledged to never text and drive again.
Those two thoughts became one and then the interactive part became central to the campaign idea. Instead of telling kids not to text and drive, let them make the decision themselves and pledge. No one likes to be told what to do. Especially millennials. But everyone loves choice. The idea behind this interactive film hinges on giving you the choice to stop texting and driving. And to pledge publicly to make it forever.
Investigating this issue only made me understand that this problem is serious and is on the rise. Every two minutes an accident is caused by texting and driving. That’s 15 deaths a day here in North America. And many, many more injuries. Most of them are young drivers. One quarter of all road-related injuries and fatalities in fact – even though they only represent 12% of all drivers.
Normally at the dramatic conclusion of a PSA on texting and driving or drinking and driving for that matter, the audience’s emotions are heightened. Typically, at that moment a logo appears along with a message: ‘Don’t do this’. The ad’s sponsor would hope that the shock of the accident would be enough for the message to stick. Really? The audience is about to sit through about 90 minutes of action, drama, and special effects, whatever. The time for the message to stick is right then and there. To press a button and pledge never text and drive.
LBB> What were you looking for when casting the guy in the film?
PL> In ‘Adam’ I wanted an average looking kid yet someone who could charm the audience. And that was important. Unlike 30 seconds we have 90 seconds. The script allowed us to meet the main character, his entourage. That intimacy made the ending much more dramatic.
My actual brief to the director, Fantavious Fritz (great name) was, “make us like Adam and then take him out”. I’d also like to note that Fantavious did such an amazing job taking the script to another level, I gave him credit as a co-writer.
LBB> What kind of research went into the development of this campaign around how to make it as powerful as possible? The pledge part is intriguing - it really does make that extra bit more personal.
PL> No research was conducted. We used experience and judgement. We did test the final product with a cinema audience to address any kinks.
LBB> Who did you work with on the production of the film and the app?
PL> The Voila Foundation joined forces with a passionate and talented team.
OPC produced the film. TimePlay led by Rick Vincent created the technology that allows audiences to interact and engage with the film. Apollo Studios did the sound design, Quiver provided the Monkees and DIIV tracks, Cineplex provided the screens. And the Parachute Foundation will sustain and grow the program.
LBB> What kind of reaction have you seen in Canada to people that have used the app?
PL> In one month 150,000 Canadians have made the pledge. The technology with this app allows us to have an accurate read on this. Soon we will be starting a program with Screen Vision in the US.
LBB> The foundation has been set up to address issues you care about - which issues do you hope to turn yourselves to in the near future?
PL> Again we want to be involved in things we are passionate about and believe we can help make a tangible difference with.
Catherine is working on a challenging one. As an allergy sufferer she is trying to figure out how the restaurant ecosystem can be better organised to accommodate customers with allergies. This is a complicated problem to solve with logistics and legal variables. But she is committed.
Jane is involved in education related issues and is now in a discovery phase.
We are also working closely with a new app called dubdub. It is creating, with its dubgood initiative, an amazingly efficient program to facilitate donating through mobile that’s due to launch in the spring of 2017. This could be a game changer and we are excited.
LBB> Any parting thoughts?
PL> When the production was complete, I sent out a note to all those who participated to thank them. I added that I was convinced that we collectively made something that would save lives. But even if it would save just one, think of the potential of that one life and the exclusion of the sadness accompanying the loss. I said put that on your resume.
We in this industry possess skillsets that have the power to change behaviour for the good. Our industry in fact has a generous track record of giving back. But as an individual, you don’t have to wait for an agency brief or a call from a charity in need to come along. What this experience demonstrates is that you can take a cause that you are passionate about, and with the right idea, assemble your own crew, including the charity, and get things done.
Writer: Paul Lavoie / Fantavious Fritz
Creative Director: Paul Lavoie
Creative Agency: The Voila Foundation
Art Director: Paul Lavoie
Music and Sound
Sound Design: Apollo Music Montreal
Editor: Mark Paiva
Edit Company: Saints Editorial
Edit Assistant: Micheal Ofori-Attah
Post Production / VFX
Post Production House: The Vanity
Executive Producer: Jane Garrah
Colourist: Clinton Homuth
Colour Coordinator: Alter Ego
Production Company: OPC
Executive Producer: Harland Weiss, Donovan Boden
DOP: Jackson Parrell
Director: Fantavious Fritz
Line Producer: Jason Aita
Genre: PR , People , Strategy/Insight