Brands can't help but jump on the Leap Day bandwagon

An intricate campaign for Chevrolet takes the prize for effort

Advertisers can’t resist rare events. Leap days only occur as often as US presidential elections, so it’s no surprise many brands rolled out campaigns to take advantage of the occasion. They won’t get another opportunity for another 1,461 days.

Perhaps the most ambitious project this year was Chevrolet’s #DayItForward, created by agency Commonwealth/McCann, which encouraged fans to use their "extra 24 hours" to do something nice for another person. Chevy facilitated contributions from about two dozen people, including actors like Kevin Spacey and Sofia Vergara, athletes like Daniel Norris of the Detroit Tigers and Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles, and musicians like Luke Bryan.

"We actually liked being in between Oscars and Super Tuesday," said Derek Chappo, account director at Commonwealth/McCann, about the decision to launch a campaign on Leap Day. "On two days where there’s an underlying feeling of vanity, there was this extra 24 hours as a day of selflessness." Once the agency had that initial plan, "we built names around an altruistic 24 hours," he said. "The ideas waterfalled from that notion."

In the lead spot, Spacey, citing the encouragement he received as a teenager from legendary actor and comedian Jack Lemmon, surprised an aspiring actor and single father with a substantial grant and an offer to shepherd him through the drama school application process.

"We mined social for responses to our question, ‘What would you do if you had 24 hours to do something nice for someone else?’" said Jamie Barbour, manager of digital and social media advertising at  Chevrolet. "We partnered with our celebrity participants to determine the most authentic ways to help people who least expect it."

The campaign also created branded content for Buzzfeed and a custom emoji from Twitter.

A slew of other brands also mobilized around Leap Day.

McDonald’s honored 24 people across the country who make valuable contributions to their communities. Local franchisees tweeted one video or photo per hour of winners receiving prizes like baseball tickets or $500 awards.

Fast food chain Arby’s offered a tongue-in-cheek "vegetarian menu" all-day — more an exercise in stunt-dinging than an effort to expand the customer base. The offerings simply removed the meat from Arby’s traditional menu, leaving behind a range of sesame-seed buns adorned only with cheese and assorted condiments. Protip: Anyone who actually finds the new sandwiches appealing can order them any day of the year by just asking for no meat. The Leap Day sandwiches aren’t reduced in price, so the effect will be authentic.

Both Pizza Hut and The Hard Rock Cafe gave free food to patrons born on Leap Day. Urban Outfitters, Travelocity and Krispy Kreme all offered "29" themed discounts, while Footlocker eschewed any gimmicks and simply took $15 off orders over $70.

Not every Leap Day celebration was customer-centric. Footwear and clothing etailer Zappos gave all of its employees a paid day off. It also started a petition calling for a national Leap Day holiday.

Even brands offering nothing special to fans weighed in on social media. Nearly every sports team had the same witty idea to post a "leaping" picture of an airborne athlete.

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