An Ad Campaign To Get Parents To Care About Bullying

Parents are barraged by messages to talk to their kids about drugs, drunk driving, and sex. But what about asking them to talk to their kids about being “the best they can be” and speaking up to bullies?

When kids see a friend or classmate being bullied, they rarely do something about it. When they do intervene–and 20% of kids do–the bullying usually stops within 10 seconds. But if a barrage of messages from Lady Gaga, PSAs, and after-school specials can’t make the sad bullying statistics get any better, what can?


The Ad Council is betting on a new strategy: Instead of addressing kids, the organization has created a series of TV spots and social media placements that tell parents to take action, simply by teaching their kids to stand up for others when they see bullying.

Before this campaign, there were no anti-bullying messages that spoke to parents, says Priscilla Natkins, executive vice president at the Ad Council. “Parents have a host of issues on their mind–talking to children about drugs and violence. They don’t think about their role in helping children to be the best they can be,” she says.

The Ad Council campaign, created in collaboration DDB New York and organizations including the Adobe Foundation, AOL, Arcus Foundation, and Carat, began in 2012. But one of its most important campaign was just released in November.

Directed by Lee Hirsch of The Bully Project, the ads features an adorable 11-year-old boy named Caine who discusses his experiences of being bullied. It’s depressing, and it’s probably effective enough that some parents will take that extra step. All of the ads point parents to the Bully Project website, which offers a parent toolkit, sample letters to send to a school, and more.

The Ad Council hopes to continue the anti-bullying campaign, which received more than $22 million in donated media support during its first year, for the foreseeable future. “In total candor, this is not a robustly funded effort. It’s near and dear to the Ad Council’s heart,” says Natkins. “We’re looking for funding, for interested corporate funders.

About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.