“A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk.” “Only you can prevent forest fires.” Since the 1940s the Ad Council has been impacting the culture with slogans like these. Now the venerable nonprofit organization is out to educate teens that antigay slang doesn’t cut it anymore—and to kick-start the effort, it’s recruited Hilary Duff.
Developed in partnership with the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, the organization that strives to ensure safe schools for all kids, the Ad Council’s new multimedia campaign is the biggest thing ever to address teen hate speech, according to GLSEN executive director Kevin Jennings.
“We were a little startled when they came to us 18 months ago and said, ‘We’ve never done a campaign on LGBT issues before. We think it’s time, and we want do it in an education context,’” said Jennings, speaking to The Advocate on the Los Angeles set of the first TV ad. “So we were the natural partner at GLSEN, because our work is about education and about young people.“
Everyone agreed that the problem wasn’t hate but lack of awareness.
“Sixty-eight percent of young people frequently or often say ‘that’s so gay’ to describe things they don’t like,” Jennings said. “Forty-seven percent frequently or often use the words ‘fag’ or ‘faggot’ to describe people they don’t like. But when you then ask students about their actual attitudes toward gay people, only 13% say they actively dislike LGBT people. Fifty percent of the students say ‘I don’t really care.’ So you’ve got a lot of kids just picking up the language that they hear other people use.”
The campaign’s strategy was to bypass the true antigay bullies and reach out to what Jennings called “the kid in the middle.”
“If we can get the bystanders to start saying this isn’t acceptable, they will shut the bullies up,” Jennings explained.
The TV ad campaign features slice-of-life scenarios in which celebrities walk in and remind teens that “so gay” is an insult. While they’re at it, they dish out a dreaded teen punishment: embarrassment.
Read the full story from the Advocate.