Kids can be cruel--ask any middle-schooler in America. But while words can cut deeply, they can also encourage and heal. This dichotomy is on poignant display in the Ad Council’s new anti-bullying campaign.
In “The Honest Yearbook,” San Francisco agency TBD films the reactions of real high schoolers responding to the heartfelt thanks of classmates whose lives have been changed--or saved--by their kind words. The effect is transformative, as their nervousness at being photographed (ostensibly for their yearbook photo) melts away when they hear the often emotional gratitude of their friends.
The PSA “Because of You” explores darker content, starting off with teens addressing their bullies through the camera. “Because of you, I felt hopeless,” says one. Adding their voices to the choir are teen influencers: YouTuber Jenn McAllister and makeup artist James Charles, better known as CoverGirl’s first cover boy. The spot flips the lens, turning to positive comments from other kids, including “This Is Us” actor Lonnie Chavis and musician Jacob Sartorius.
“Honest Yearbook” was directed by 20-year-old Shea Glover, who also served as interviewer and photographer. The PSA was directed by 19-year-old Claire Jantzen. Both women are represented by Adolescent Content, a youth production company that partnered with TBD.
“This was one of the most powerful experiences I have ever had in this industry,” Rafael Rizuto, co-founder and chief creative officer at TBD, says via email. “Seeing those kids opening up about about depression, self harm and bullying in such a brave way was something I'll never forget.”
Teens can visit BecauseOfYou.org to play an interactive, introspective game called “Honest Cards” and watch more stories from influencers. Corporate partners supporting the campaign include Adobe, General Mills, Johnson & Johnson, Mars, Twitter and Wells Fargo. Non-profit partners include Be Strong, Born This Way Foundation, The Bully Project, The Trevor Project, GLSEN and PACER National Bullying Prevention Center.