As one billboard message puts it: “Everyone has the right to marry. Not everyone has basic rights.” Then there’s this one: “Imagine being denied healthcare because of who you are.”
Viewers who want more information are directed to an associated website that’s prominently called out on both banners: BeyondIDo.org. It’s a reference to a national public awareness campaign that launched by the Ad Council, the nonprofit public service ad agency and the Gill Foundation, which supports LGBT equality efforts.
The broader campaign features outdoor ads, and also nationally distributed TV and radio commercials. The point, as the website makes clear, is that while on June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that gay Americans have a constitutional right to get married, the fight for LGBT equality certainly hasn’t ended. Thirty-one states still have laws that discriminate against LGBT people, the worse of which might entitle landlords to evict them, employers to fire them without cause, or even doctors refuse services.
BeyondIDo.org features an interactive map, which shares more specific stories about the discrimination. Visitors who want to do more can sign up for updates from the Freedom for All Americans Education Fund, which fights LGBT discrimination.
On the TV side, most spots run either 30 seconds or a minute and share individual stories that humanize these issues. In Michigan, for instance, Jami and Krista, a gay married couple, had a pediatrician refuse service to their newborn because of their sexuality (that’s still legal in the state). In Ohio, Jimmie and Mindy, were also married, only to have Jimmie, who was a teacher, be fired after administrators raised questions about her sexuality (another still-legal move). Actor Nick Offerman adds the necessary gravitas for the radio spots, which are equally short, serious, and summarize much of this ridiculousness.
“The campaign features personal stories of discrimination that deliver a powerful and simple message: we’re all human, yet some of us are being denied basic rights. When you can put yourself in the shoes of the couples who’ve shared their stories, we believe it will close the understanding gap and increase empathy for them and their circumstances,” says Ad Council President and CEO Lisa Sherman in an email to Fast Company.
The Ad Council worked pro bono alongside ad agency CP+B and the brand strategy and design firm RedScout to develop these spots. The organization typically only tackles projects with a statistically demonstrated need. In this case, Sherman notes, the data was as compelling as the stories: 55% of LGBT Americans report experiencing discrimination, according to a recent GLAAD report. That number jumped 11% between 2016 and 2017, despite the federal victory for marriage equality. At that same time, a national poll shows that while the vast majority of Americans support LGBT equality, the vast majority believe that federal law already protects gay people from many of these continually harmful state-level discriminations. “It’s the combination of the stories with the facts that makes this campaign compelling, resonating, and empowering,” adds Sherman.
There’s a classic refrain in philanthropy that awareness alone doesn’t create change. However, by pairing its campaigns with associated action groups for people to become more involved, and also measuring how trends change over time, the Ad Council believes its efforts continue to make a huge impact. The group’s “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk” campaign has encouraged 70% of Americans to stop someone who is intoxicated from driving, Sherman says. It’s Autism Awareness campaign helped double the number of parents talking to their doctor about this issue.
The effort is expected to run for at least several years with these ads sharing donated ad space or airtime alongside Ad Council campaigns covering more than 40 social issues sponsored by nonprofits or federal government agencies. The group calculates the annual value of this exposure to be worth about $30 million per campaign.