Ad of the Day: FEMA

To prepare for Hurricane Sandy, you needed to be ready yesterday

Headshot of Tim Nudd

As Hurricane Sandy proves once again, people are notoriously reluctant to deal with natural catastrophes until they're literally on their doorstep. There's stark data behind this: 91 percent of Americans believe it's important to be prepared for emergencies, but only 58 percent of households have taken any steps at all to prepare.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency tries every year to improve those statistics through ad campaigns urging people to plan for the worst, not just hope for the best. The PSAs are important, but often creatively underwhelming—sometimes too dull, sometimes too esoteric. This year, Leo Burnett in Chicago delivered the excellent 60-second spot below, featuring the slogan "Today is the day before"—reminding viewers that you never know when a cataclysmic disaster will strike (even if, in the case of a hurricane, you have some advance warning). It could always be tomorrow, so you should prepare today.

The TV spot deals not with a hurricane but with an earthquake—the Loma Prieta earthquake, which hit the Bay Area on Oct. 17, 1989. The ad shows stylized (and fictional) footage of the day before that momentous day, and indeed, it appears just like any other day. Using a split screen, the spot also shows today, and the inference is clear. Though things are quiet, you could be hours away from an emergency for which you might not have the supplies or the plan to help—potentially even save—yourself and your loved ones.

Scare tactics only get you so far. This spot commands attention with its compelling setup and great details. If nothing else, it's fun to see what a difference 23 years makes—in the city skyline, in fashion, in how people do something as simple as read a book. It pulls you in, and sets you up for the message: that one thing most assuredly hasn't changed in those 23 years. You need to be ready for history to repeat itself.

The spot points to the website, which has a fascinating map of the U.S., with each state emblazoned with a date. Each of those dates, it turns out, is the day before some disaster—you can click on each one to read about it. The site gives a more palpable sense of the dangers we face, and expands the message well beyond the Bay Area.

The TV spot broke in September as part of National Preparedness Month. How many heeded its advice ahead of Hurricane Sandy is, of course, unknown. But there are surely many people today who still wish it was the day before.


Client/Campaign: FEMA, "Ready" Campaign

Spot: "Today Is The Day Before"

Agency: Leo Burnett Chicago

EVP, Chief Creative Officer: Susan Credle

VP, Creative Director: Ryan Wagman

VP, Creative Art Director: Nuno Ferreira

Associate Creative Director: Guybrush Taylor

Copywriter: Ryan Wagman

VP, Executive Producer: Rob Allen

EVP, Account Director: Bob Raidt

VP, Account Director: Rich Pieczynski

Senior Account Executive: Danielle Wilburn

Account Executive: Christine Zinker

Production Company: Motion Theory

Director: Guillaume de Fontenay

Director of Photography: John Houtman

Line Producer: Rob Newman

Editing House: Mirada

Editor: Erik Barnes

Producer: Leighton Greer

Music Studio: Big Foote Music + Sound

Composer: Darren Solomon

Producer: Ray Foote

Audio Mix: Static Studios

Mixer: Steven Vandeven

Radio Production: Static Studios

Engineer: Steven Vandeven

Studio: Static Studios

Print Production Studio: Mundocom

@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.