WATCH VIDEO: Dayton creative firm again captures attention on COVID-19 dangers

"Don't let up." Artists for Dayton's creative firm Real Art put a lot of hours into that simple message. Photo contributed by Real Art.
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"Don't let up." Artists for Dayton's creative firm Real Art put a lot of hours into that simple message. Photo contributed by Real Art.

What does it take to remind people not to let up? A lot of dominoes

The work of Dayton creative firm Real Art is getting statewide and national attention again for a creative video produced by the firm about coronavirus for the Ohio Department of Health.

The company used thousands of dominoes to produce the video to give a vivid demonstration of the dangers of COVID-19 during the pandemic.

“All it takes to start a chain reaction is to let up,” the video narrator intones as the first domino falls. “You stop keeping a safe distance. Take a break from your mask. And suddenly — an outbreak.”

The chain reaction triggered, dominoes continue falling, black, red and orange in escalating lines and concentric circles. “And another. And another,” the narrator says.

“So remember,” the message concludes, “don’t let up.” Lines of dominoes spread flat to expose that message in prominent blue lettering.

The message is clear: Seven months into Ohio’s experience of the pandemic, don’t let your guard down.

Real Art latched on to a different but similar visual metaphor in a popular video — a viral video, you might say — it produced for the Ohio Department of Health. The video exploded on social media last spring, boosted by significant social media shares.

Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling said the first 30-second video, using mouse traps and ping pong balls, was magic.

“We don’t really make work to go viral, right?” Chris Wire, founder and chief executive of Real Art, said recently. “We make work that we think is interesting and hopefully sparks a moment with people, something they want to think about, discuss and hopefully share.”

In the case of that video, the message met the moment. Within a day of the its release, it hit more than 9 million views.

“When it happens,” Wire acknowledged, “it’s addictive.”

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When the Ohio Department of Health wants to remind people of the dangers of the coronavirus, they turn to Dayton firm Real Art. Photo contributed by Real Art.

When the Ohio Department of Health wants to remind people of the dangers of the coronavirus, they turn to Dayton firm Real Art. Photo contributed by Real Art.
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When the Ohio Department of Health wants to remind people of the dangers of the coronavirus, they turn to Dayton firm Real Art. Photo contributed by Real Art.

This time, dominoes provide the elaborate set piece.

How many? Wire doesn’t know exactly. He estimates that between 7,500 and 10,000 dominoes were put to work.

“We didn’t really count,” he said. “We just kept ordering.”

As in the first COVID-related video, plenty of hard work was involved. Dominoes were painstakingly arrayed. When a battery dropped from a camera at one point, work had to be begin anew. Other “disasters” intervened just to keep things interesting.

“There’s a hope that with something like this, you can set it all up and it will all go perfectly," Wire said. "It didn’t.”

How many hours went into the video?

“Probably too many," Wire said with a laugh.

The message is one state leaders have emphasized for a while. “I think what we were trying to do with this one in particular was remind people that even in that fatigue, now is not the time to give in,” the CEO said.

It’s the “tiny steps" — not wearing a mask, not heeding social distancing in groups — that creates problems, he said.

Said Wire, “I think we wanted to use that metaphor to point out that it just takes one of those slip-ups to start a chain reaction.”

Real Art helps clients with product launches, digital apps, messaging, branding and much more. Its history stretches back to the mid-1980s, from small offices in the Oregon District to today’s location at 520 E. First St., a stone’s throw from Day Air Ball Park. Clients have ranged from the NCAA First Four to Troy’s Hobart Corp. to a who’s who of Dayton-area — and indeed, national — clients.

Wire has enjoyed watching the downtown renaissance.

“It’s incredible to see,” he said. “Every time I hear about a different project that Jason (Woodard, principal of Woodard Development) is working on or a hotel going up or anything, I’m proud for the city.”

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