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COVID-19: Bachelor's Ben Higgins Among Denver Stars in #thecureisUS

Ben Higgins as seen in his #thecureisUS video.
Ben Higgins as seen in his #thecureisUS video.

There's no shortage of messaging about COVID-19 on various national and international media platforms right now. But #thecureisUS has a distinctly Colorado flavor.

The campaign, being pushed by Denver's Cactus Agency, is built on videos in which celebrities from around the state, including The Bachelor's Ben Higgins, Colorado Rockies Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon, homegrown Olympians Mikaela Shiffrin and Amy Van Dyken, and a slew of others offer encouraging words about how to stay safe and keep others from harm during the global pandemic.

From that start, #thecureisUS is now drawing in folks without a specific Colorado pedigree, including football legend Bo Jackson and Pete Alonso of the New York Mets.

"We started the firm in 1990 and our thirtieth anniversary is coming up," explains Joe Conrad, Cactus's founder and CEO. "We've always been a very purpose-driven agency, and over the years we've done a number of social-marketing campaigns around things like suicide among working-age men and a lot of work around public youth initiatives. So we have a long history of getting involved in things like this."

As concerns over the novel coronavirus grew, Conrad continues, "we realized just how significant a health crisis this was, but also that since there's no cure right now, the only thing we can do is change our behavior. Eventually a cure will happen, but for the time being, the cure is us. So we thought it would be great to put together a slogan people could rally behind, like #BostonStrong and things like that — something that could be shared by anybody."

The idea, which Conrad credits to Jeff Graham, Cactus's president and chief marketing officer, got major boosts from Matt Cook, Graham's college buddy, who used his resources to facilitate contacts with assorted notables, and producer/director Kent Youngblood, a major force behind the videos that resulted.

Here's the one starring Rockies all-star Arenado.

The effort goes beyond the clips. Cactus also launched Facebook and Twitter pages and built thecureis.US website, where "we've made our assets very shareable. People can print things directly and we provide graphics and artwork that they can download for free," Conrad notes.

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"We haven't put any paid media behind this," he says, "but it's been out for a few weeks now, and very organically, it's picked up traction. People from the Denver creative community have seen it and said, 'What can we do to help?' And the celebrities have all been excited to take part. They wanted to do something where they could use their voice and their influence, and that's driving people to our site — making it more actionable and giving a unified voice to the effort."

In the beginning, Colorado was the focus. "We wanted to make sure that in our home state, our back yard, we would do everything we could to get it out to as many people as we can," Conrad says. "But we're also sending out banners to people all over the country and encouraging them to take photos while practicing social-distancing guidelines at iconic places. And if it does pick up energy and momentum nationally, that would be a wonderful thing."

The most recent #thecureisUS video stars Juliana Broste of the blog Traveling Jules and is one of more than sixty public-service announcements, with participants including the mayors of Fort Collins, Pueblo, Vail and Aspen. Click to see clips of Broste, actor Marty Lindsey, Charlie Blackmon, actor/advocate Connor Long, entertainer Lannie Garrett, Amy Van Dyken, Olympic swimmer B.J. Bedford, cinematographer Danny Dodge, Pete Alonso, University of Colorado president Mark Kennedy, Mikaela Shiffrin, Ben Higgins, Bo Jackson and a so-called super-cuts compilation.

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