Campaign Trail is our analysis of some of the best and worst new creative efforts from the marketing world. View past columns in the archives here.
Launching a new idea into the world can be as exciting as it is nerve-wracking. Website builder site Squarespace tries to capture the anticipation and anxiety of hitting "publish" on a site for a new venture with an ad meant to inspire entrepreneurs toward the end of an unusual year that has accelerated new ways of living, working and creating.
A three-minute anthem spot is the centerpiece of the Launch It campaign, depicting a fictional speaker brand, farming company, honey maker and more as they introduce their goods to the world via websites powered by Squarespace. As their websites go live, their products — carrots, earbuds and jars of honey — shoot into the atmosphere on their way to space, closing the ad with the tagline, "If you believe in something, launch it." A voiceover mimics the sounds of mission control and harkens back to the Space Age of the 1960s, but swaps aeronautical jargon for web design lingo.
The space travel metaphor, where ideas are rockets and Squarespace is mission control, is meant to parallel the feelings of anticipation a small business owner might experience when launching their passion project into orbit. Supporting entrepreneurs, creatives and the growing independent workforce is particularly relevant this year, according to Gui Borchert, the web company's senior director of creative.
"We felt that now more than ever, the world needed a spark of optimism," he said. "While this global pandemic has brought a dark cloud over the world, this time in isolation has given each of us a great opportunity to dust off those old ideas that have been sitting on the shelf."
Cutting through the gloom
Directed by Ian Pons Jewell from Reset, Launch It is the first major campaign to come out of Squarespace's in-house team in Los Angeles, which Borchert says looks to invest more in branded content capabilities. The anthem spot is running this fall in the U.S., U.K., Canada and Australia across broadcast and digital video, and is accompanied by out-of-home, social extensions and two shorter clips that humorously detail how to create a cult skate brand or culinary empire.
Despite an economic downturn and a year tough on morale, the number of registered businesses was up between April and June compared to the same timeframe in 2019, per data shared by the company. Squarespace designed Launch It this fall to capitalize on that uptick, whether customers were using downtime during the pandemic's early days to expand passion projects into formal side hustles or existing businesses tweaking their online presence in response to COVID-19, Squarespace CMO Kinjil Mathur told the publication CMO.
"If we were going to inspire anyone to be brave and get their ideas out there, we had to live that ethos on the campaign itself."
Squarespace, senior director of creative
"Our customers might need a little bit of push to help them understand that it's OK to launch it at the moment. It might feel weird, but some of the best business ideas come out of recessions and downturns and challenges," Mathur said.
The campaign was devised during the pandemic, so the in-house team worked to acknowledge related hardships and imbue themes of positivity into fresh creative that cuts through the ongoing gloom of reality.
"However, we wanted to avoid the pitfalls lots of brands were getting into and didn't want to come across preachy, gloomy or artificial," Borchert said. "We wanted to really tap into the fountain of optimism, which has largely been overshadowed by the uncertainty of a year like 2020, and truly inspire everyone to grab onto their dreams, believe like never before, and unleash them out into the world."
Look to the skies for inspiration
Though Launch It portrays modern visuals, the creative was inspired by the wonder and nostalgia of the 1960s Space Age. Looking to iconic space launches of the past may have helped the video spot now to suspend disbelief and boost morale among audiences looking for a respite from today's tension, per Borchert.
"We felt like if we got it right, we could inspire everyone to get dreaming again, and put those ideas out there in the world. Next thing we knew, we were dreaming up flying carrots and horse sculptures blasting off into the stratosphere," he said. "We shot for the moon — pun intended — not only with the scale of the idea, but with a seriously deep level of craft."
"…If we were going to inspire anyone to be brave and get their ideas out there, we had to live that ethos on the campaign itself," Borchert added.