As an agency, it’s important to understand your client and the brand you will be tasked with creating campaigns for. Publicis Groupe took that process of learning as much as possible about the client to the extreme last week.
A group of 30 employees from across Publicis Groupe–including Saatchi & Saatchi chief strategy officer Wanda Pogue and MSLGroup CEO Ron Guirguis–woke up at around 3 a.m. last Friday morning to take part in USAA’s 20th annual Zero Day PT.
“Usually as an agency person you are given a deck and you’re told this is a consumer, this is what they do and this is how they feel. We just went through an experience that I think is completely transformative,” Pogue said. “Do we know everything there is to know? Maybe not, but can we empathize a little more with our men and women who serve this country? Absolutely.”
This was the first year any outside group was allowed to participate in USAA’s event, this year held at USAA headquarters in San Antonio, Texas. Each year participants perform basic military training from running a mile and a half to obstacle courses and push-ups, all before the sun comes up.
Here’s a short look at what goes on at Zero Day PT.
“We serve such inspirational men and women who serve our country and there’s no real greater way to know and learn about the sacrifices they make on our behalf than to basically walk a day in their shoes. There’s no better substitute to get people to know what physically, emotionally and mentally they are going through,” Chris Owen, chief creative officer at USAA, said.
USAA consolidated its marketing with a number of Publicis Groupe agencies last October. At the time it was announced that Saatchi & Saatchi would handle creative, PR would fall to MSLGroup, Razorfish would head up digital and Spark Foundry (formerly Mediavest | Spark) would take on media planning and buying.
USAA came up with the idea to have Publicis employees join them in the annual Zero Day PT six months ago. As part of the program all participants are assigned a different branch of service–ranging from Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and National Guard/Reserve.
Prior to the event participants attend mandatory training where they learn all there is to know about the brand of service they’ve been assigned to. Men and women need to know everything about the history of that service, the ranks within that service and “details on the number of active reserves,” Owen said.
For Saatchi’s chief strategy officer one of the standout moments of the event came at the very beginning, when men and women were boarding the buses to get to USAA’s training grounds.
“You walk onto this bus and you don’t recognize anyone that you know. That initial moment where you’re a bit afraid, you’re a bit unsure … it’s a real testament to what our military goes through,” Pogue said. “For us it’s really important at least in a small way to try and understand their lives, how we can provide our service to them and how we can help them gives us a greater sense of understanding.”