With New PSAs, Tarana Burke Seeks to Build the Next Chapters of #MeToo’s Future

Work from Deutsch puts focus back on survivors

Terry Crews' story is one of four featured in new PSAs for #MeToo. Girls for Gender Equity / #MeToo
Headshot of Doug Zanger

In October 2017, actor Alyssa Milano’s use of #MeToo on Twitter to draw attention to sexual assault and harassment took the movement, started by activist Tarana Burke in 2006, into the wider public consciousness. While the sheer volume of activity was a positive in many ways, much of the discussion and news focused on the accused—particularly producer Harvey Weinstein—as opposed to the experiences of the victims and the effects on their own lives.

“The [#MeToo] hashtag was a mechanism for people to understand what the movement was, and it was propelled by these famous women who were brave enough to tell their stories,” said Burke, founder and chief strategist at Girls for Gender Equity and founder of the #MeToo movement. “What brought it to our attention was Hollywood, but the broader mission and vision, [and] especially the needs of [survivors], have been misrepresented.”

Last month, four powerful PSAs created by Deutsch Los Angeles, with the help of Burke and her team, were launched to put the spotlight back on the core mission of the movement: to hear the stories of those affected and offer support. The animated films debuted privately with HBO at the Sundance Film Festival and featured the testimonies of actor Terry Crews, Emily Waters, Daniela Contreras and an anonymous survivor.

While the words and creative execution are undoubtedly powerful, to Burke, the most crucial element in each is intersectionality. Each person highlighted in the PSA series was chosen to illustrate more nuance in the discussion of sexual violence.

Burke says that Crews “represents an adult male who was sexually assaulted and came forward. But he also represents a bystander and an ally … and we like to talk about how men can be allies and be helpful, but that framing doesn’t acknowledge that men are survivors as well. What he did [in speaking out] was brave and put him in a vulnerable position, because he felt such empathy for women.”

Waters, according to Burke, goes back to #MeToo’s roots. “Our work started with black and brown girls,” she said. “It was important to have Emily’s story not just because she’s a young black girl, but [because] her story talks about the intersection of intimate partner and sexual violence.”

The story of Contreras, who speaks Spanish, focuses on the issue of immigration and how sexual violence can impact people seeking a new life in the United States. “We don’t look at the faces of immigrants and the layers of challenges they ensure coming to this country where they don’t speak the language and are just trying to survive,” noted Burke.

Finally, the PSA featuring an anonymous story puts the spotlight on male survivors. “There’s just too little conversation about men as survivors of childhood sexual abuse,” said Burke. “Having a queer black man talk candidly about his experiences was hard, to say the least. But [his story is] so important—and we’ve received a lot of feedback [on this video].”

Deutsch decided that animation would make a more meaningful impact than typical first-person, on-camera PSAs. Indeed, when watching each ad, the voices and animation don’t crash into each other, and the stories (and requisite hope in each) are not lost. “Creatively, it’s genius,” said Burke. “We’re used to solemn-looking [PSAs], but you hear the voices … every inflection … and you can feel the emotion. You get more connected to what they’re saying because they’re not looking in your face.”

But, more importantly, Burke feels that Deutsch really understood the mission of the ads after she spoke at the agency and received feedback from people in attendance, especially Deutsch group account director Montse Barrena, who sought out Burke after her talk to share how much it meant to her and the agency.

“This was an incredibly rewarding project for me,” said Barrena. “With much of the focus of #MeToo re-directed to the scandals affecting the uncertain futures of the powerful perpetrators, our goal for these PSAs was to highlight survivors whose stories aren’t typically heard.”

“We’ve had people offer us pro bono services, or they said that they wanted to be involved in some way,” added Burke. “I’ve had so many people ask, in the last two years, how they could be helpful. Deutsch was tuned in, thoughtful, careful and they really listened. They were fully committed.”

Burke said this is a vital reset for the #MeToo Movement, ensuring it doesn’t mushroom into an unproductive space.

“What we’ve made for the last year is not sustainable,” said Burke. “You can’t have a long-term movement that is based on naming and shaming, or based on calling out individuals and not talking about the systems that are in place that allow those people to behave the way they do or the lives affected by the violence.”

In the next phase of a massive, historical global moment, Burke wants to focus on what matters most: supporting survivors.

“The person who controls the narrative controls the work and the resources, so it’s important for us to have a hold on what the narrative is,” she said.


Client: Girls for Gender Equity

Founder/Chief Strategist (Girls for Gender Equity): Tarana Burke
Managing Partner, Communication + Engagement (Blackbird): Mervyn Marcano

Deutsch L.A.

Chief Creative Officer, North America: Pete Favat
EVP, Executive Creative Director + Art Director: Jorge Calleja
EVP, Head of Design: Adhemas Batista
Creative Director: Carmen Love
Copywriter: Chelsea Curry
Art Director: Katie Dittman

Account Planning
Head of Strategy: Kelsey Hodgkin

SVP, Executive Producer: Mary Ellen Duggan
Senior Integrated Producer: Jesse Pugh Ferguson

Business Affairs/Traffic: SVP, Director of Integrated Business Affairs: Gabriela Farias
SVP, Director of Traffic Operations Carie Bonillo
Senior Integrated Business Affairs: Saeyoung Kim
Account Management:
EVP, Group Account Director: Montse Barrena
VP, Director of Experience: Acacia May
Account Supervisor: Nissa Gutierrez

VP, Director of Communications: Mikaela Liboro
PR Manager: Karina Brennan

Audio Record / Mix
Audio Engineer:  Cayce Sylvester
Managing Director: Ted Markovic
Executive Producer: Adam Becht
Audio Director: Terry Miglin
Producer: Patrick Lewis

740 Sound
Mixer: Chris Pinkston
Executive Producer: Scott Ganary
Producer: Jeff Martin
Assistant Mixer: Will Pugh

Lime Studios
Mix Engineer: Tom Paolantonio, Matt Miller
Assistant Mixer: Lisa Mermelstein
Executive Producer: Susie Boyajan
Producer: Kayla Phungglan

Anthem – Psyop
Director/Designer: Pedro Lavin
Animation Director/Designer: Marika Cowan
Animator: Mayukh Goswami
Compositor: Sean Wehrli
Executive Producer: Lydia Holness
Producer: Jodi Kraushar, Nyenye Kitchings

Daniela: Hornet

Emily Waters: Elastic Studios
Design Studio: Elastic
Creative Supervision: Heidi Berg, Lisa Bolan
Type Designer: Benjamin Woodlock
Animators: Steven Biggert, Earl Burnley, Alex Silver
Cel Animation: Michael Relth, Jahmad Rollins
Editor: Rachel Fowler

Senior Producer: Paul Makowski
Head of Production: Kate Berry
Executive Producer: Luke Colson
Managing Director: Jennifer Sofio Hall

Anonymous & Terry Crews: We Are Royale
Executive Creative Director, Partner: Brien Holman
Executive Director Brand Partnerships, Partner: Jayson Whitmore
Managing Director, Partner: Jen Lucero
Senior Art Director: Juliet Park
Art Director: Heather-Lynn Aquino
Executive Producer: Heather-Lynn Aquino
Executive Producer: Rhys Demery
Head of Production: Eric Zapakin
Design Team: Juliet Park, Heather-Lynn Aquino, Yoyo Wang, Eleena Bakrie, Arthur Metcalf, Matty Deans
Animation Team: Hyungsoon Joo, Matty Deans, Arthur Metcalf, Zak Tietjen

Music Company: duotone audio group

Managing Director: David Leinheardt
Executive Producer: Ross Hopman
Producer: Gio Lobato
Sound Design: duotone audio post
Sound Designer: Juan Aboites & Andy Green
Executive Producer, Audio Post: Greg Tiefenbrun

Musicology: Dan Dixon

@zanger doug.zanger@adweek.com Doug Zanger is a senior editor, agencies at Adweek, focusing on creativity and agencies.