In Advertising, BYU AdLab, Experiential Learning, Students

The project, titled “Your Decisions Write Our Stories,” won several awards this year, including a Gold Award at the International Andy Awards and Best in Show at Utah’s American Advertising Federation Awards

When BYU advertising student Connor Dean first heard about Dr. Scott Warren, an Arizona State University professor being charged for ‘harboring illegal people’ at the border, he was confused by the backlash Warren received for his actions.

“To me, it was a modern-day Good Samaritan story of a man choosing to go against prejudice to help save another life,” Dean said. “I began to think, what would I do in the situation? What is right and what is wrong? What is the greater commandment as children of God, to love one another or to love the law of the land?”

Quickly, Dean’s personal reflections morphed into an advertising project titled “Your Decisions Write Our Stories.” The video — branded with the LA Times — tells the story of the wife of a border patrol officer who stumbles upon a young boy and his pregnant mother as they attempt to cross the border near the couple’s home.

The student team — Connor Dean (Producer), Enoch Lui (Copywriter), Cam Tribe (Art Director) and Quinn Frehner (Strategy) — decided to produce the commercial in a narrative structure, allowing the audience to understand the complex issue through a relatable and emotional story.

“I tend to gravitate more towards narrative-type storytelling in commercials because I feel that I can share important messages in a beautiful and relatable way,” Dean said.

Although the ad addressed controversial messages about immigration, the students hoped to shed light on humanitarian aid at the border, a topic the group believed many are unaware of. 

Border groups such as No More Deaths and Border Angels organize water drops and supplies for refugees crossing the border in harsh conditions. There have been legal ramifications to these individuals for helping immigrants as they seek a better life,” Dean said.

By using the captivating story and character development, the team wanted to promote more understanding for illegal immigration, and encourage a different way of thinking about immigrants coming into the United States. 

“Instead of being passive about topics that might make us uncomfortable, such as illegal immigration, we can make a conscious effort to develop empathy for others and to see them as human beings with valid life experiences,” Dean said. 

The students also hoped to convey a message about the importance of finding truth, even when that truth can be difficult to hear. The words that appear at the end of the commercial — “your decisions write our stories” — are a reflection on the relationship between what one believes to be true and how that can affect decision making. 

“We make decisions based on what we believe ‘truth’ is. Paradoxically, in today’s world truth is harder to find, even though there are more news stations, search engines and resources than ever before,” Dean said. “We won’t discover truth if we rely solely on our own experiences to perceive the world, because people everywhere have extremely different circumstances and realities that we cannot comprehend.” 

Enoch Lui, who worked as the copywriter for the project, found personal fulfillment from his involvement and the opportunity to use his voice and talents for good. 

“The project meant a lot to me because I served my mission in Guatemala. I saw a lot of people leave their homes to try to find a better life in the United States,” Lui said. “We weren’t trying to show one side or the other, and we were just trying to give the facts, but we felt like it was an important message to share.”

The AdLab had a great impact on the success of the project, as the students were able to bring their creative ideas to life using its resources. Dean was able to benefit from real-world experience in film production. 

“As a commercial film producer, you are in charge of the whole production process,” he said. “You need to understand film production, narrative structure and story development as well as handling things like budgeting, casting and scheduling. The AdLab has been so crucial in my education and growth as a producer. We have access to amazing resources such as cinema cameras and editing and coloring software.”

Ultimately, “Your Decisions Write Our Stories” sought to bring empathy — not based in political views, but rather real people and stories. 

“I hope that people can watch this story and form opinions not based on political affiliation or preconceived notions, but on seeing and hearing the stories of other people — especially those who are marginalized,” Dean said. “I hope we can become better at not simply accepting the truths that are portrayed to us by our own culture, but that we can put in the work to recognize the experiences of humanity everywhere.”

Watch the full ad here. 

Awards Won:

Gold Cube –  Art Directors Club (ADC) for The One Club for Creativity

Gold Award – The International Andy Awards

Gold – Telly Award

Utah AAF – Best in Show 

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