A Little Help from a Friend: Save the Chimps’ Commercial Debut with BCG BrightHouse and Paul McCartney

Written by

Mairead Collins BCG BrightHouse Alumna |

Apr 19, 2023 · 5-minute read

What do you say when you’re asked to produce a film backed by a Beatles song personally lent by Paul McCartney?

In the case of BCG BrightHouse and our Executive Creative Director Mike Lear, you get straight to work.

After one minute of talking to Dan Mathews, Director of Events and Special Projects at Save the Chimps, you’ll understand why this collaboration was an easy decision for the creative team at BrightHouse and, even more notably, Paul McCartney.

The film started with a simple fact few know about chimpanzees: they can live into their 60s. In fact, about half of the chimps at the Save the Chimps sanctuary are elderly, and their lifetime care is a costly commitment. With these truths in mind, the “When I’m Sixty-Four” campaign was born. The combination of the hit Beatles song fitting the commercial premise perfectly and Paul McCartney being a long-term friend of Dan Mathews, gave way for the film idea to actualize. Dan and Mike Lear’s decade-long friendship tied the final details together, creating an ideal opportunity for BCG BrightHouse to produce the video. After a few months of compiling Save the Chimps’ footage and music permissions bureaucracy, Save the Chimps’ television debut was ready to go live.

Since the commercial’s first airing in late February, “public interest has been soaring,” remarks Mathews. Not only has McCartney shared the campaign on all his socials, but it has been covered by NPR and PBS, as well as radio stations Audacy and iHeart Radio. The spot has also been widely circulated in the advertising community, namely AdWeek, Ads of the World, Little Black Book, Marketing Communication News, Roast Brief, Ads of Brands, The Egotist Network, Ad Stasher, and Ad Age. In just its first week of launching, the film acquired 638,000 impressions equaling $16,500 in free media space. Due to the attention, Save the Chimps’ annual Members Day tours completely sold out, with 80% of the tickets going to newcomers.

While the exposure Save the Chimps’ first TV commercial has received is incredible, the true acclaim is in the organization itself. The public sees a heartwarming, informative, 30-second ad campaign, but it’s the product of months of intentional small decisions and a lifetime of collaborative animal advocacy.

The Save the Chimps sanctuary has been Florida’s “well-kept secret” for over two decades. Nestled away in Fort Pierce, is a beautiful 150-acre property composed of 12 manufactured islands and home to over 220 chimpanzees. Founded by the late primatologist Carole Noon and Jon Stryker of the Arcus Foundation, the sanctuary has attracted esteemed animal advocates to contribute to their initiative. Among the experts, Jane Goodall serves on the advisory council.

However, the power in this story and the lives of the chimps goes deeper.

For decades, they were bred in labs for experiments now considered futile, confined in shabby roadside zoos, and made reliant on human trainers to “perform” onscreen. Their right to live a peaceful life as nature intended was taken from them. Save the Chimps took this darkness and injustice and transformed it into something not only meaningful, but joyful.

The “When I’m Sixty-Four” campaign radiates joy. It gives you a peek into the lives Save the Chimps has been able to cultivate. And it was all intentional.

Mathews wanted to make sure that the commercial captured the magical place that is Save the Chimps, rather than focusing on many of their traumatic backstories. “I think people get a little beaten down by the news and they’re not sure where to focus their attention because it can be depressing,” Mathews notices. He wanted to counteract this observation and “communicate the issue in a way that brings a smile to people’s faces.”

Save the Chimps is a manifestation of the positive energy and willpower of a small group of people to see beyond the chimps’ mistreatment and relentlessly fight to give them the life they deserved all along.

If you don’t see the magic of the Save the Chimps sanctuary yet, you will after hearing this:

Amongst the first groups of chimps to reach the island, was Wes and Jennifer. After being released from their enclosures, they immediately bolted to give the other a lasting and dramatic embrace. Enamored by their behavior, their caretakers researched their backstories. They discovered that they had been bred in the same lab a decade prior before tragically losing their offspring to researchers and, ultimately, getting transferred away from the other.

Save the Chimps rewrote their story. Wes and Jennifer were able to reunite and retire together, in peace, in a haven that became home, surrounded by new family.

Dan Mathews at The Save the Chimps Sanctuary
Dan Mathews at The Save the Chimps Sanctuary

Even after years of injustice, the natural beauty of animal interaction cannot be overshadowed. Save the Chimps creates a new era of life for these animals, empowers their resiliency, and uncovers their intrinsic abilities.

And there’s more to come. With the US government no longer funding experiments on chimps, and Hollywood now using computer-generated imagery instead of live animals, the sanctuary will give a few hundred more chimps a chance at life as nature intended.

To learn more, or to adopt a chimp for $64, please visit the “When I’m Sixty-Four” campaign page on the Save the Chimps site.

Paul McCartney donated his song “When I’m Sixty-Four”

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