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DDB 'Remembers Segregation' for MLK

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LOS ANGELES A provocative campaign by Omnicom Group's DDB Seattle urges community members to honor the life and achievements of civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.—and realize that segregation is still an issue, almost 40 years after his death.

The "Remembering segregation" effort relies on print, Web and direct-mail components to spark discussion and action, according to John Livengood, executive creative director at the shop.

As advertising creatives, he said, "we've got a gift: the ability to write stories, create visuals in very small spaces. Stories that move people and change people's perceptions and behaviors."

While that ability is most often used to sell shampoo or cars, Livengood said, it can also "ignite a fire . . . to force individuals to confront their personal feelings on segregation."

To that end, full-page newspaper executions—appearing in today's Seattle Times, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Seattle Weekly and The Stranger—instruct "whites" to read one side of the page, "coloreds" to read the other. A similarly designed Web effort, online at www.remembersegregation.com, highlights pivotal points in the civil rights movement and provides links to The King Center, NAACP and other resources.

In addition, DDB last week sent half-black, half-white direct-mail pieces to prominent Seattle-based public figures and high-school teachers. Potentially offensive at first glance, the mailing is meant to encourage "dialogue that would not occur otherwise," Livengood said. "[It's] from this feeling of being pushed outside your comfort zone that real action and progress can be made."

Although this marks the 15th year DDB Seattle has crafted an MLK-awareness effort, it is the first time the agency did not team with a local media outlet in its creation.

"Work was different in the past," Livengood said, explaining that previous ads "just honor[ed] the legacy of Dr. King." This year's more provocative executions, however, made some former partners "not so comfortable."

Instead, DDB forged its own partnerships to carry out the project, he said. Images of Dr. King, for example, were donated by Corbis, Seattle. Media was handled by Omnicom's OMD, Seattle.

"We're not shirking from controversy," said Livengood, who worked on the campaign with agency creative director Eric Gutierrez, art directors Jason Stanfield, Ray Page and Heather Long, copywriters Keith Anderson and Matt Gilmore, and Web developer Mike Swartz, among others.

Work breaks today throughout the Seattle metropolitan area. A campaign spend was not disclosed.