War's funky 1975 anthem "Why Can't We Be Friends?" rocked the stands during halftime at a September game between Oklahoma high-school football archrivals Putnam City North and Putnam City West.
In a show of goodwill and harmony devised by Cox Communications and agency 180LA, the marching bands from both schools—235 members in all—joined together to perform the song at P.C. West's Patriot Stadium.
Created under Cox's "Connections Project" banner, the initiative scores by keeping things simple. In the film, titled "Band Together," players from both squads describe their opponents as "enemies" and vow to "demolish" and "dominate" the other side. On game night, the bands combine for a musical display of camaraderie.
It's a sweet gesture, bold but not overblown, and particularly poignant given the all-American setting—holy Heartland, Batman!—and emphasis on young people.
Below, 180LA group creative director Jason Rappaport reveals how the activation came together.
Muse: Why focus on high-school football, and why pick these schools?
Jason Rappaport: Under the "Connections Project," we try to find situations in which human connection is down, and then help with an intervention. We did some research into high-school football across the country and found that some of these rivalries go back for decades and can really divide a town. With divisiveness creeping into every corner of society these days, we thought sports would be an interesting way to promote unity.
As far as choosing the schools, Oklahoma is a key market for Cox. They love their high school football, and P.C. North and P.C. West have a historic rivalry. Their marching bands are rivals as well, both among the best in the state.
It's a potent slice of Americana, but where's the brand tie-in?
So many towns across the country are passionate about their high school football, and lines are drawn based on these rivalries. Many of these communities rely on Cox to broadcasts these local games, so it felt like we had a natural place in the conversation.
What kind of prep was involved?
The bands practiced for two weeks. Separately at first, to not call attention to themselves. As gameday got closer, they practiced together. We asked them to keep it a secret, and kept our fingers crossed. Luckily, not many people at high school are curious about what their marching bands are up to on any particular day.
Your choice of material was certainly on point.
The bands performed one song. "Why Can't We Be Friends?" translated well into a marching band arrangement. It was familiar enough for people at home and in the crowd to recognize without the lyrics—and it carried the deeper meaning that we wanted the community, and the entire country, to consider.
Can you describe the vibe at the game?
Lots of feelings were involved. There was nervousness and then an amazing sense of accomplishment from the bands. We saw surprise and an overwhelming amount of joy from the people in the stands—fans from both schools joined in, singing along and dancing. But the most amazing thing was when both sets of fans spontaneously broke into a joint chant of "We are P.C.!"—"We are Putnam City!" You can't make that up. Being there to witness it was special.
Client: Cox Communications
Campaign Title: Band Together
Agency Location: Los Angeles
Chief Creative Officer: Al Moseley
Executive Creative Director: Mike Bokeman
Group Creative Director: Jason Rappaport
Associate Creative Directors: Guiga Cunha & Juan Arboleda, Maggie McClurken & Grace Harris
Exec Producer: Natalie Parish
Managing Director: Megan McDonnell
Senior Brand Manager: Morgan Theis
Account Coordinator: Emilia Mancuso
Photographer: Zachary Burns
Production Company: Mssng Peces
Director: Matt Ogens
Producer: Dustin Highbridge
Editorial Company: Work editorial
Editor: Dan de Winter
Editorial Producer: Evan Cohen
Color: Paul Yacono
Audio Record & Mix: New Math
Sound Design: New Math