2020 : When the Motor Stops (Detroit’s Response to COVID-19)

March 30, 2020 all-day


With Covid-19 spreading in Michigan, ad agency Doner, headquartered in Detroit since the 1930s, chose to send a message of strength and resilience to its city in the form of its new video, ‘When the Motor Stops’.

The spot, shot in black and white, features typically populated portions of Detroit cleared out. Messages of solidarity appear on downtown marquees, including affirmations such as “We love you, Detroit” and “We will get through this together.” A voiceover acknowledges how unnatural the emptiness of the streets feels, especially for “the city on four wheels.” The entirety of the spot serves as a nod to Detroit’s heritage, with referencing including: “Even Henry [Ford] himself would have put it in park.” The video characterizes collective isolation as a sign of togetherness, closing out with the poignant message that “Here, we don’t stop in the name of fear. We stop in the name of love” before fading to text that says “Stay safe, Detroit.”

Doner shot and produced this film over the weekend – safely. The agency’s in-house director shot solo, with the editor cutting and finished the film remotely from home – the same way the rest of Doner’s studio is working. The voice talent recorded from her closet.


Agency: Doner

Director: Zeke Anders

Creative Team: Michael Stelmaszek, Zeke Anders, Alex Demuth

(Strategy: Alex Demuth)

Music: Jon Moshier, Julian Whettlin

(VO: Olivia Hill)

(Script: Michael Stelmaszek)

Production: Jennie Hochthanner, Tony Del Bel

Musician: Low Lumens

Maureen Feighan, “A local ad agency’s ode to Detroit resilience goes viral“, Detroit News, April 3, 2020.

Julie Hinds, “‘A flat-out masterpiece’: Detroit ad on COVID-19 crisis inspires rest of nation“, Detroit Free Press, May 28, 2020.