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St. Louis County, MN

Hey there, COVID Ref: A Case Study

The year was 2020 and the whole world was facing a new virus. In northern Minnesota, St. Louis County officials were facing a surging COVID-19 crisis. After 7 months into a pandemic, people had COVID fatigue so they needed to remind people how to be safe in a refreshing way. 

No guilt. No stats.


The campaign was a SMASH success! Within the first day, the landing page had over 1,000 visitors and the YouTube videos organically hit 2,000 views. The local news picked up the story and online chatter had people debating their favorite video.

Enter the COVID Ref Campaign.

First, we studied St. Louis County’s priority list. This led to two different directions. One was more serious and straightforward and the second took a more out-there approach about a man reffing the pandemic. Needless to say, we all loved the latter. After landing on the COVID Ref, we got to work.

First we wrote our video concepts and started pre-production. We explained our vision to Danger Bird Productions and the were immediately on board. We found local actors, ranging from UMD theater students to theater scene talents. Our main role, the COVID Ref, could only be played by Solomon Witherspoon, a local influencer and all-around great guy who embraced the role on screen and social media.

The filming days finally arrived and we ran around Duluth, Minnesota for two days getting our footage. From a quiet neighborhood to the local Whole Foods Co-op, every shoot went off great. There were a few last-minute script edits due to state regulation changes, but our team figured them out and kept the shoot on the road.

Due to COVID, we had to take extra precautions. This meant filming at certain locations on off-hours, wearing masks, social distancing, and sanitizing tables, desks, and products featured. We played by the rules and still managed a successful shoot. Thanks to everyone who made such and effort.

After everything was shot, it as time for editing the 30-second television ads. These were distributed across an array of channels in Northern Minnesota.

Here are the TV spots.

Landing Page

Every TV ad led people to Here, they could find the backstory of the COVID Ref and important resources from the CDC and the Minnesota Department of Health. It also included other videos that built out character and highlighted other important safety measures.


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