Jen Sall, a Los Angeles-based TV, film, and web producer, was sick of the overwhelming negativity on all of her social media feeds. Yes, these are urgent times and we have to come together. But can we come together over something positive? Can we come together over something as universal and positive as love? She’s betting yes, and has joined forces with her long-time creative accomplice Brody Baker, CCO at the brand development agency Starworks Group, to create a PSA that aims to get us to do just that.
The PSA brings awareness to the huge budget cuts facing the National Parks, PBS, National Public Radio, National Endowment for Humanities, museums, libraries, and the list goes on. “Hiking, looking at art, these are all things that foster my creative spirit,” says Jen “thinking about them getting cut is really scary.” She read that Americans spend almost $20 billion a year on Valentine’s Day and made the spot as a “visual love letter” to encourage the nation to reroute a portion of that money toward these agencies and organizations.
She and Brody wrote an ask for people to self-record videos that feature them saying what they love and sent it out to their community in the art and film worlds with a request to pass it on. It spread quickly, says Brody: “People want to do something more personal than just emailing and calling the government, so they were very willing to get on board.” They collected the videos and edited them together. Some of the big names that appear in the star-stacked video are Josh Hartnett, Moby, Adrian Grenier, Devendra Banhart, Margaret Cho, and India Menuez.
The end product, which could have veered toward saccharine, manages entirely not to. It feels intimate and honest and entirely earnest. It feels just right in a moment when urgency can make irony seem inappropriate. Urgent times call for earnest measures?
The video’s call to action is intentionally soft and positive. Jen and Brody brought the project to Ashley Spillane, former president of Rock the Vote. She currently runs a consultancy that has helped the likes of Microsoft, Twitter, and iHeartRadio to rally millennials around positive change. She believes you can’t shame people into advocacy and encouraged them to maintain a positive focus.
“We would love for love to take over social media. That would be the best valentines day ever,” says Brody.
The plan is to use this campaign as a starting point to create future campaigns for “every holiday where gifts are exchanged, just to remind people that a little bit of financial donation can go a long way. Financial commitment is a powerful way of voting,” says Jen. They’re working with partners that have platforms that can streamline the donation processes for future campaigns.
They’re onto something. In this new era in which the programs, services, and agencies that enrich our lives and that perhaps we’ve always taken for granted face significant scale-backs, we need to start rerouting some of our consumer spending to sustain them. We’re probably all guilty of being way less likely to spend $20 on a donation to a federal agency than on another round of cocktails. So stay your hand while reaching for a heart-shaped box of chocolates today, and consider diverting your cash to a dearly loved park or radio station instead.