The assistant professor of communications teamed with fellow Elon colleagues Mitch Herndon and Clay Stevenson, as well as recent iMedia graduate Trey Caldwell, to develop three public service announcements to promote the United Nations AIDS outreach program.
While the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team didn’t qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup that won’t stop Elon University from being involved with the globe’s most celebrated soccer tournament.
Supported by numerous members of the Elon University community, Assistant Professor Doug Kass has written, directed and produced three public service announcements for the United Nations AIDS (UNAIDS) outreach program. Launched in conjunction with this summer’s World Cup, the three 30-second commercials bring awareness to the continuing worldwide HIV/AIDS epidemic, as well as promote UNAIDS’ policy of “zero tolerance” of discrimination.
According to Kass, the three PSAs have – and will – be shown on television channels throughout the globe, including Africa and China, and will have heavy social media distribution in Russia and other countries. Additionally, the spots have been translated to as many as five languages for broader consumption.
“This was a great opportunity to capture that huge audience – the largest audience of any event in the world – and share the messages that UNAIDS promotes,” Kass said.
The first PSA, titled “After the Winning Goal,” has been circulating since the start of World Cup competition in mid-June. There’s a distinct Elon feel to the commercial with Phoenix faculty, staff and students heavily involved in the camerawork, audio and visuals.
Behind the scenes, Mitch Herndon ’17, video producer in the School of Communications, played a significant role in all three spots, serving as director of photography and editor. “Really, he was an additional producer,” Kass said. “He helped with a lot of the heavy lifting, and did exceptional work on every level. Couldn’t have done it without him.”
Senior lecturer Clay Stevenson composed music for two of the commercials, and handled sound design and mixing. Kass went as far as to call Stevenson’s contributions “phenomenal.”
For one of the PSAs that relied heavily on graphics, Kass collaborated with Trey Caldwell, a 2018 graduate of Elon’s Interactive Media master’s program.
”We had to throw out the first two concepts, but on the third attempt, Trey absolutely nailed it,” Kass said. “He came up with a great look to appeal to the younger audience that needs to be reached with these messages.”
Additionally, Kass collaborated with other faculty members across campus for voiceover work. Listen closely and viewers will hear Mussa Idris, assistant professor of anthropology; Vanessa Bravo, associate professor of communications; Ahmed Fadaam, assistant professor of communication; and Binnan Gao, lecturer in Chinese.
“I wanted an international cast for the voiceovers,” Kass said. “It was great that I could find all that right here at Elon.”
Viewers may also recognize on screen Elon faculty and staff members Tom Nelson, Nagatha Tonkins and Gao, along with a handful of students. Additionally, Assistant Professor Hana Saq was instrumental in the casting of Omar Alhamwi, a Syrian refugee who lives in Greensboro. A former professional soccer player, Alhamwi is featured in the “After the Winning Goal” commercial.
Kass also thanked Elon Athletics for “going the extra yard” to facilitate shooting footage in university athletic facilities. In a few clips, Rhodes Stadium is clearly the backdrop.
Working closely with Charlotte Sector, UNAIDS multimedia communications manager in Geneva, Switzerland, Kass – and writing partner Steve “Steak” McClure – focused on creating PSAs that could be run repeatedly to help promote the organization’s many initiatives and campaigns.
“We purposely made the commercials evergreen, so that they can live on and be used in conjunction with future initiatives and events,” Kass said.
While just 30 seconds to deliver an impactful message might seem difficult, the format and pace were familiar to the Elon professor.
“I wrote and directed commercials for a long time. It’s an art form,” Kass said. “You don’t have a lot of time to tell your story and get your message across, so it forces you to think, be clear and be creative.”
Established in 1996, UNAIDS is an innovative joint venture of the United Nations family, which brings together the efforts and resources of 11 UN system organizations to unite the world against AIDS. It is leading the global effort to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals.