Oct 10, 2008

Mktg - Celebs urge Teens to 'Knock Off' Anti-Gay language

The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network and The Advertising Council this Friday will launch a new public service campaign aimed at teenagers, with an intent to make the expression "that's so gay" passé. The campaign will feature actress/singer Hilary Duff and comedian Wanda Sykes.

In 30-second spots, teens are called out for using the expression in everyday life. "Check out this chef—that's so gay!" says one teenager to his buddies in reference to a goofy statue at a local pizzeria, when Sykes wanders by. "Don't say that something is gay when you mean that something is dumb or stupid," she snaps. "It's like if I thought this pepper shaker was stupid and I said, 'Man, this pepper shaker is so 16-year-old boy with a cheesy mustache,'" referring to the teen's mustache. In another spot, Duff is shopping at a store and trips up a pair of teen girls who use the term 'gay' freely to refer to unfashionable clothes. The ads close with a tagline and voiceover of the featured celebrity: "When you say, 'That's so gay' Do you realize what you say? Knock it off."

Created pro bono by ad agency ArnoldNYC, the campaign includes television, radio, print, outdoor and Web advertising. Ads are being distributed to about 33,000 media stations nationwide this week and will run per the Ad Council's donated media model. MTV and other networks have committed to supporting the campaign.

"We've kind of institutionalized the acceptance of this derogatory speech in popular culture, and I think as communicators we have a responsibility to help lift society to some degree," said John Staffen, chief creative officer at ArnoldNYC, which also does the teen-targeted 'Truth' campaign for the American Legacy Foundation. "We're trying to open up a dialogue and let [teens] make up their own mind. As soon as we show the ads to people, they go, 'Wow, I never really thought about it like that.'"

An integrated social media program will further the reach of the PSAs on social networking sites and blogs. Launch activities will coincide with next week's National Ally Week (October 13-17), which focuses on encouraging students to sign a pledge to help stop bullying and harassment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) teens.

Web site www.ThinkB4YouSpeak.com provides tips on how to support LGBT issues and the opportunity for visitors to take a stand against anti-LGBT language.

The ads also coincide with the release of GLSEN's National School Climate Survey, which found that nearly nine out of ten LGBT teens report having been verbally harassed in the past school year; almost half of those teens have been physically harassed because of their sexual orientation, per the study. GLSEN is a national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for students regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.

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