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‘Right Here’ in Tennessee: behind the scenes of our new commercials

Whether it’s a father cradling his newborn child, a physical therapist standing alongside a patient taking tentative steps, or a high school football coach inspiring his players with a rousing speech, the deceptively simple notion of being “right here” for someone else resonates deeply.

Capturing that feeling – and showing our own commitment to be here when you need us – was the primary goal of our new ad campaign. In our three commercials currently airing across the state, everyday people utter some variation on the phrase “I’m right here.”

BlueCross not only wanted to represent “right here” as a concept relatable to any person, regardless of their background, but to emphasize our presence in Tennessee and as a partner in your health and health care.

“We are of, by and for Tennessee,” says Roy Vaughn, senior vice president and chief communications officer at BlueCross. “We wanted to reflect that we are the ‘home team’ health plan.”

Home team advantage

In July, our internal brand strategy team began discussions about the importance of that “home team” message.

“We wanted every aspect of these commercials to convey that we will be ‘right here’ in the places and the moments that matter,” says Carla Raynor, vice president of Consumer Experience and Brand Management at BlueCross. “We’re not only right here for you when you need us on your health journey, but we’re right here in Tennessee, as well.”

Nicole Minton, senior vice president and executive planning director at Bohan, our ad agency partner in Nashville, agrees. “The person on the other end of the line when consumers call clearly matters, so emphasizing the local aspect tied together with a supportive message hit the mark on expressing the BlueCross mission of better health peace of mind.”

Adds Carla, “We worked with Bohan to brainstorm a long list of everyday scenarios where we’d all want another person with us, and what those relationships would be like. From there, we thought through how to localize each one.”

Actual paddle boarders in Chattanooga were featured in one of our “Right Here” commercials. The Market, Walnut Street and Veterans Bridges are visible in the background.

Locality was crucial to the campaign’s authenticity. The commercial shoot would be a production completely based in Tennessee, from the involvement of Bohan to the hiring of directors, scouting of locations, and casting of actors and non-actors.

We wanted these commercials to be genuine and accurately represent our members and our communities. 

“Supporting local people and businesses in the state was also a priority,” Roy says. “So, in addition to ensuring that authenticity, we wanted all of our production costs to be funneled right back into Tennessee.”

Finding a production team that could carry out our vision meant meeting three criteria:

  • Intimate knowledge of the state and experience filming here.
  • Ability to capture interpersonal connections in a way that registered quickly and felt real.
  • Efficiency when following our brand strategy team’s direction and shooting footage across the state in a short amount of time.

Ultimately, directors Will Holland and Ryan Kendrick were brought on board due to their work with the Tennessee Department of Tourism and their shared passion for the “Right Here” concept.

Creating instant connections for members

Filming on location happened quickly. Within two weeks, the team filmed roughly 14 hours’ worth of footage in Chattanooga, Knoxville, Memphis and Nashville. Filming inside and outside of all four major cities was vital to the authenticity of these commercials.

For this shot of hikers in the Great Smoky Mountains, BlueCross and the production team arranged to film on private property.

“To accurately represent the entire state – which has very distinct east, middle and west regions – we worked with BlueCross to pick iconic landmarks like the Walnut Street Bridge in Chattanooga and add as many nuances specific to each region as possible,” Will says. “For example, they suggested little shout-outs to big Tennessee names like the Nashville Predators and Memphis Grizzlies, as well as smaller, local ones like Clumpies Ice Cream in Chattanooga and the Nashville-based Project 615 clothing brand.

“We wanted fellow Tennesseans who caught these to feel rewarded and know we did our due diligence.”

Locations and nuances are great ingredients, but without convincing actors in intimate scenarios establishing instant emotional connections, you could be left with an empty stomach. During the casting process, which involved both open auditions and strokes of luck, the team met with a mix of Tennessee-based professional actors for some roles, and non-actors for others.

You see a real father telling his own newborn “We’re so glad you’re here.” A deaf mother uses sign language to congratulate her real-life son. A little girl learns to ride a bike in her Memphis neighborhood.

And that assistant football coach delivering an impassioned speech? He and his high school team from Lausanne Collegiate School were filmed during a practice the night after their first game of the season.

“We scheduled scenes that would feel as natural as possible,” Ryan says.

“Instead of everyone simply performing a line in different scenarios, we were creating real, honest, emotional moments that everyday people could put themselves into, as opposed to being fed a tagline.”

“When capturing those exact moments, we were trying to jump into a scene that already existed in a way,” Ryan continues, “where you knew things were going on before and after it but you were coming in at the time that ‘right here’ made perfect sense.”

Challenges lead to rewards

Naturally, when you’re filming all over the state on a tight schedule, challenges arise. Filming on water is particularly difficult; a Chattanooga-based scene on the Tennessee River featuring actual paddle boarders wound up taking the better part of a day to complete. The team wanted a shot of the Smoky Mountains, but getting permit to film in the park was going to take too much time. So the directors arranged to shoot on private property for an overlook shot – and wound up hauling equipment uphill through cow pastures and thorny tangles.

“But that sunset shot ended up being really beautiful,” Ryan admits with a laugh.

A Nashville Predators banner – one of the many nuanced visual nods to Tennessee – can be seen in the shot where a mother comforts a sick child.
The team also captured several unrehearsed moments that enhanced the “right here” realism. 

The actress playing a mother comforting a sick child delivered her line in Spanish on a whim after trying it a few times in English, and it fit the scene perfectly. Likewise, the mother who is signing to her son in the graduation scene was allowed to freestyle until the team landed on a natural and moving communication with her son.

“We stay loose and creative, and we try to push our authenticity as much as possible,” Will says. “We allowed for improvising and would shoot the entire scene and then shoot it again a totally different way too, to find that real moment. We wanted to go the extra mile instead of just looking at a board and saying, ‘OK, let’s just shoot it like this.’”

BlueCross on the call sheet

To emphasize the fact that our team is right here for our members, it was important to include our own people. Three of our customer service representatives – Brittany Clay, Brittany Littlejohn and Nikki White – each have a speaking role in a commercial.

“Our people are our competitive advantage,” Roy says. “They care deeply about serving our members well and it shows in many ways, so including them helps us recognize that.”

This commitment to care is one of the reasons why J.D. Power recently ranked BlueCross “Highest Member Satisfaction among Commercial Health Plans in the East South Central Region.”

Initially, Nikki – who had no previous acting experience and whose supervisor encouraged her to attend an open audition for BlueCross team members – thought her involvement would be limited to a voiceover, rather than an on-camera role.

“When I got a call back and was asked to come to the Chattanooga office, I was surprised by the elaborate set-up for filming,” says Nikki, a customer advisor expert and telecommuter. “There were cameras, boom mics, lighting, and people everywhere. And they were on a tight schedule! I was asked to speak a couple of different lines several different ways, whatever felt most comfortable for me. We knocked everything out within an hour.”

The line that made the final cut?

“And if you need anything else, we’ll be right here.”

About Jesse Thompson, Principal Communications Specialist

A photo of the authorJesse joined the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee corporate communications team in 2017. A Chattanooga native, he has more than 15 years’ experience in content creation, management, and strategy for consumer audiences, including a six-year stint in health care marketing.

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