August 5, 2020

There’s an aphorism that gets thrown around when people experience particularly difficult events: “Circumstances don’t make or break you. They reveal you.”

It’s cliche -- and a little cheesy -- but it’s also true.

When COVID-19 hit during the first quarter of 2020, the industry wasn’t expecting it.

Agencies and their production partners scrambled to adjust their models and make themselves more adaptable to a world that changed overnight. Many added sections to their websites, like “Working During COVID-19” before anyone even knew what that meant.

We didn’t have to. Circus Maximus is built for this.

When we say we exist to maximize the growth potential of enduring brands in a constantly changing world, we mean it. It’s not something we have to adjust for.

When the pandemic strikes, a lot changes, but the fundamentals don’t.

We don’t strategize, create, then produce. We’ve intentionally built a pipeline from strategy through to production that optimizes our creative to function effectively in the wild.

We’re always in production.

COVID-19 has forced many agencies to distill their production models down to only what’s absolutely necessary. We’ve already done that.

At Circus Maximus, production is never decoupled from strategy and creative, and COVID-19 has allowed us to stay disciplined and integrated by further leaning into three of our core strengths: preparation, innovation, and collaboration.

Here are a couple of our recent projects with Shake Shack that highlight our approach in these three disciplines.


When COVID-19 hit, Shake Shack was forced to close their stores and lost quite a bit of foot traffic.

They wanted to find a way to connect with their guests in an authentic way that provided some education, a little fun, and much needed relief for families in lockdown.

They brought us an idea for an IGTV series that would spill the beans on their most prized secrets: their recipes.

Shake Shack at Your Shack was made in a time when it wasn’t yet safe to send a production crew into the homes of talent so we innovated and enlisted Mark Rosati, Shake Shack’s Culinary Director, and John Karangis, Shake Shack’s Executive Chef, to become both on-camera talent and production crew overnight.

We outlined best practices for them to use their own personal smartphones and developed simple creative to show Shake Shack’s audience something exciting as well as digitally transform their business from in-store to delivery.

Innovation isn’t always doing something new. Sometimes it’s as simple as executing the basics at an exceptionally high level. We flexed our expectations and adjusted the lens through which we saw production value.

By using what we had, we were able to tell a great story and drive revenue amidst a global pandemic.


As the pandemic trended towards a flattened curve, precautions were still taking place.

Movie theaters were closed, playgrounds were taped off, and camps were getting canceled all across the country.

Shake Shack was prepared.

So were we.

Together, we developed Shack Camp, a campaign that would continue to drive sales, give back to communities in need, and provide (even more) relief for (still) very tired and busy parents nationwide.

We wrote a six-week, at-home curriculum as well as designed, curated, produced, and distributed a kit of activities for families to use as they follow along. We also wrote and produced a weekly IGTV series that features three real families embarking on Shack Camp throughout the summer.

We partnered with Yacht Club, a COVID-safe and certified production company, and we casted real families to perform in their actual homes. By doing so, we were able to keep our production footprint small.

But there was an added benefit to casting real families: we were able to showcase diverse talent authentically.

After George Floyd’s murder and the protests following, many companies posted black squares on Instagram and tweeted copied-and-pasted PR statements about their commitment to diversity. By featuring real people in their real homes being their actual selves, Shake Shack displayed an actual commitment to diversity.

We’re proud to partner with them.


You can’t prepare for all possibilities and innovate better ways of doing things if you’re not willing to collaborate.

Our partnership with Shake Shack this summer has been nothing short of true collaboration.

Right from the beginning, Circus Maximus and Shake Shack worked together to strategize, create, and produce timely content that entertained, informed, and drove sales in an economic downturn.

We immediately recognized what makes Shake Shack stand out in the QSR realm -- their own talent -- and we leaned fully into it. Because of that, we were able to truly and uniquely partner on strategy, creative, and production from ideation through to execution.

COVID-19 has had dramatic effects on the economy and on the working styles and conditions of our industry. It has revealed our own capabilities, our production partners’ capabilities, and our clients’ capabilities.

The good news is that as we move forward into this ever-changing world, we’re prepared for whatever’s next.