AUSTIN, TX: In the spirit of Americans putting aside their
differences for the common good, a PSA has swept the country thanks to
ad agency GSD&M and the Ad Council.
Eleven GSD&M execs found themselves stranded in Maryland on September
11. On the long van trip back to Austin, they pondered ways to help.
They had a plan by the time they reached North Carolina, and they later
enlisted the Ad Council.
The agency recruited volunteers to film Americans of all ages and
ethnicities stating, "I am an American." The tagline "E Pluribus Unum:
Out of many, one" emphasized the country's unified diversity in an
effort to prevent backlash against Arab Americans. A week and a half
later, the PSA was airing across the country.
Unlike other Ad Council campaigns, this did not have a sponsor. GSD&M
paid for what wasn't donated (Kodak threw in the film), and worked with
the Ad Council to spread the word. With many advertisers cutting back,
the PSAs were expected to get heavy play.
To put video into the hands of news directors as well, Washington's Home
Front Communications did a pro-bono VNR featuring GSD&M's spot, an
interview with Ad Council CEO Peggy Conlon, and a PSA with Laura Bush
encouraging parents to talk to their children about the terrorist
Two hundred stations picked up the VNR in just a few days, and footage
was used on all three network morning shows. The campaign got good print
coverage in most major-market dailies as well, including a full-page
spread in Newsday.
"I am an American" also gave the Ad Council a chance to remind reporters
that it was founded two months after Pearl Harbor to communicate
war-related messages like "Loose lips sink ships." Finding its war
footing once again, employees took the unusual step of hand-delivering
the diversity spots to stations across the country.