While Joe Biden’s victory in the U.S. presidential election was cause for elation among many, it is perhaps even sweeter for independent agency Mekanism and its co-founder, Jason Harris. The agency created the campaign’s original logo but started its relationship with the president-elect years ago, leading a campaign to expand the conversation around preventing sexual assault, focused on college campuses.
It’s On Us, targeted to young men, launched in 2014 during the Obama administration, inspired by—perhaps paradoxically—the agency’s work with body spray brand Axe. According to Harris, someone on Biden’s team noticed the campaigns and invited them to a meeting in the Roosevelt Room at the White House.
“They realized that, for a campaign like this, [they] could use an outside firm that knows how to talk to college men,” said Harris. “And if they can talk to college-aged men about attracting the opposite sex, maybe they can do the same about stepping in if they see a non-consensual encounter.”
Harris expected Biden to position the conversation with him along the lines of, “Wouldn’t it be amazing if you finally use advertising to solve a problem instead of selling beer, deodorant and ice cream?” Yet, what he found was that Biden was “overwhelmingly positive and optimistic,” unexpectedly spinning the conversation, tone-wise, into what Americans hear from him today.
“He said, ‘Imagine if we can use the power of advertising and the techniques that you know to do something to create a better future,’” recalled Harris. “We took a very complex issue and boiled it down to make it simple and engaging,” figuring out a way to get college men to step up and intervene in cases of sexual assault.
To date, more than 500 college campuses in all 50 states have held over 6,000 sexual assault prevention events, and over 440,000 people have taken the It’s On Us pledge. The organization held its first national student leadership summit to combat sexual assault in the summer of 2019.
The program is now run by Civic Nation, a nonprofit outside of the White House. Harris expects that when the new administration takes office officially, there can be discussions on bringing it back into the fold and could include the Creative Alliance, a collective of about 100 agencies that works on pro bono social campaigns, which Harris also co-founded.
Looking ahead, through 2023, It’s On Us aims to engage a million young men, bring chapters to 1,000 colleges and universities, and train 25,000 as campus organizers.
An iconic logo to reflect Joe Biden
Mekanism’s relationship with the Biden camp led to an opportunity to design the campaign’s first logo (Kamala Harris was added later). According to Harris, the agency approached some in the president-elect’s orbit as he considered a bid for the White House. A pro-bono project, Harris put together a small team pitching five ideas, ultimately landing on what the world saw with emblematic features, including the American flag’s stripes.
“We created an ownable, flexible logo and branding system that represents both the strength he brings to the table and the approachability that has endeared him to the American people,” said Tom Lyons, Mekanism partner and head of creative. “The logo utilizes colors and design elements that are iconically American, reminding everyone of those basic American values that Joe Biden fights for and that unite us together.“