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Doner’s Powerful Message to Stay Safe Gains National and Local Attention


In the midst of their COVID-19 coverage, MSNBC wanted to feature an inspiring story. So they reached out to Doner and interviewed ECD, Michael Stelmaszek on The Last Word.


ADAGE — So much of Detroit’s character and personality is wrapped up in motion—the thrum of fast cars and the strum of Motown tunes. But right now, the Motor City is quiet, and the streets are emptying as people stay indoors and distance from each other to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The city is now a coronavirus hot spot, with only 6.7 percent of Michigan's population but 26.5 percent of COVID-19-related deaths, according to the Detroit Metro Times. Ventilators are in short supply, and more than 500 police officers have been quarantined with the virus. The police chief has it. The National Guard has been deployed. And the only real way to fight the virus is to stay at home.

So Detroit-based agency Doner created an ode to Detroit that also serves as a PSA asking residents to stay put so that healthcare workers can take care of the sick. It features black-and-white footage of the city—its empty streets, silent theaters and lonely shops—and not a person in sight.

A voiceover declares that in a time like this, “even Henry himself would have put it in park,” referring to the Ford founder and Detroit benefactor.

The agency used a compartmentalized process to create the PSA. Its in-house director recorded the footage himself—alone and without a crew. The editor cut and finished the film from home, and the VO talent recorded from inside her closet.


Detroit Free Press — The Detroit-based Doner ad agency has made a powerful statement on coronavirus safety measures that portrays staying at home in terms of strength.

Titled "When the Motor Stops," the 1-minute spot posted on Doner's Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts shows black-and-white images of the Motor City at a standstill.

Empty city streets, Comerica Park, marquees of closed theaters, the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit's distinctive "Everything Is Going to Be Alright" neon sign and more flash buy as a female narrator explains the context of our current situation.

"It feels unnatural to not be in motion, for the city built on four wheels to stand still. But these vacant streets, empty stadiums are not signs of our retreat, but of our resolve. This is not us sitting out the fight. This is us winning it," she says.

For the ending, Doner borrows from a lyric from a timeless Motown hit by the Supremes: "Because here we don't stop in the name of fear. Here, we stop in the name of love."

The overall message is the last thing seen as the screen goes to black: "Stay safe, Detroit."

The video had 4,500 shares as of Wednesday morning.

Doner executive vice president for business development and communications Jimmy Kollin gave the Free Press an inside look via email at the making of the spot.

What was the inspiration for the ad? Kollin says the idea came from a young brand strategist, Alex DeMuth. "He said, 'Our agency can’t make ventilators or masks, but we can make content.' So that’s what we did."

Kollin noted that strong, powerful statements are central to both advertising and Detroit.

"They’re emblazoned across buildings. And the people of Detroit need to see those words and feel their power, as they’re staying home and staying safe. Like the video dramatizes, we are city built on motion and to see those streets motionless is truly haunting."

Was the footage already shot? "Not at all," said Kollin, explaining that filming was done Friday by one employee, Zeke Anders, Doner's director of content production.

"He built a camera rig to fit his car and shot all of the film as he drove through the deserted streets of the city," said Kollin.

How long did it take to put the spot together? A super-fast 48 hours. "Zeke shot on Friday, edited from home — safely," said Kollin.

One of Doner's executive creative directors, Michael Stelmaszek, wrote the eloquent script, while a Doner copywriter, Olivia Hill, did the narration. She recorded it in her closet, according to Kollin, who added "there’s no better sounding or safer place to record audio than standing amid your jackets and sweaters."

Like all of Doner, the agency's in-house studio, The Underground, "has gone 100% remote," said Kollin, which allows the agency's staff to continue creating content from home for clients like FCA, Tylenol, the UPS Store, Nature’s Bounty and more.


Click On Detroit — An empowering video from a Metro Detroit-based advertising company is showing support for the region during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic while simultaneaously delivering an important social distancing message.

The video is from Doner Advertising, based in Southfield. CEO David Demuth’s 26-year-old son had the idea to create it to help uplift and bring the city together. They did it in 48 hours simply for everyone to share and be reminded of the city’s grit to overcome and the importance of staying home right now.

Here is a statement from Demuth:

“I’m so proud of the effort put forth by the Doner team on this initiative. It’s part of our DNA at Doner to give back to the community. The idea for this video emanated from a few of our younger employees, including my 26-year old son, Alex, and our director of content, Zeke Anders. They were inspired by all of the iconic messages of solidarity and optimism that are essential to Detroit culture. The feeling was, ‘Hey, we can’t make masks or ventilators, but we can use our creativity and resourcefulness to send a positive message and remind people that by staying inside, they’re doing the brave thing, the right thing.’ Hopefully, people will share the video and it will help to drive the change in behavior we need right now to stop the spread of this virus.”

The video’s official title is “When the Motor Stops.” It shows the city’s busiest streets empty during the state’s stay-at-home order.