How design and advertising is helping New York rebuild

Charles Fulford, ECD at teledentistry brand Candid, has created a campaign to encourage New Yorkers to keep smiling. Here he talks about how the city has been adjusting to life with Covid and the importance of design in hard times

Back in August, American author, investor and podcaster James Altucher wrote a Linkedin article titled ‘New York City is dead forever. Here’s why’, which went on to mourn the impact of coronavirus in essentially shutting down the city, its businesses, its culture, its food, its everything. The piece went viral and reaction to it got heated, with many people weighing in with their feelings on the topic including Jerry Seinfeld, who wrote an op-ed in the New York Times that called Altucher “some putz”. Seinfeld claimed New York was not dead (albeit writing from his Long Island home away from the heart of the city), and said it was the energy, the toughness and the love people have for the city that will keep it alive post-Covid.

To communicate this passion, Charles Fulford, executive creative director at Candid, a DTC teledentistry brand, wanted to put a spotlight on the greatness of New York and pump some positivity into its streets. “Our brand is grounded in the idea that good health unlocks self expression and helps people gain confidence and move in the direction of their dreams, which fits perfectly in lockstep with the brand of this city,” says Fulford. “So we put together the Smile On, New York campaign in a few days and with an extremely small team.” 

Smile On New York campaign by Candid

Fulford and his team created a ‘mini-festo’ and worked with Halo by Lyft (that attaches smart LED screens to the top of ‘rideshare vehicles’ to show targeted ads) to get the message out in the most New York way they could think of, via yellow taxi cabs. “We created more than 50 different animated creative assets that were neighborhood-specific reasons to smile, which would be triggered by the cab’s location,” Fulford explains. “We supplemented the campaign with some static OOH as well as a social engagement component that captured real NYers’ ‘reasons to smile’, which were hilarious and we turned into cab top creative as well.”

If a cab is driving around the theatre district for instance, the screen will display: ‘Reason to smile #187: Your sopranos win Tonys’, or if it rolls into the Upper West Side near Central Park the screen will say: ‘Your local park is 842 acres’. It’s simple, fun, and effective and essentially acts as a love letter to New York with a bit of tech added in.