Calling on Lincoln to Stop Contemporary Slavery

By Jordan Teicher 

Some days I cover couchgating, and some days I cover human rights. Both are advertisements, but one has more significance than the other. And because commercials for some activist groups attempt to sway political policies that can potentially save lives, they deserve to be held to a higher standard.

Agency barrettSF, which was founded by Jamie Barrett after he left Goodby nearly a year ago to start up his own shop, created the new two minute spot for Made In a Free World’s #ImWithLincoln campaign meant to raise awareness for slavery and human trafficking. In it, there’s a strong narrative and saturated cinematography worthy of a short film or documentary. At the very end, an over-the-shoulder angle reveals Abraham Lincoln, his presence symbolic in the shadows of a dirty basement where a young girl has been forced into sexual slavery.

The campaign’s crux is the association with Lincoln, so including his image makes sense even if it’s awkward. The real issue with the pitch stems from an oversimplification of a complex topic. Lincoln legally freed the slaves 1863, but they weren’t actually “free” until decades after. Jumping onto the Spielbergian bandwagon can help publicize “I’m with Lincoln,” but it seems that Made In a Free World really just wants more governmental funding to aid their efforts.

Undoubtedly, it’s an important cause, one that should be fought around the world, but it seems a little misguided to slap a beard and top hat onto the campaign. If the point is to free slaves outside of the U.S., drumming up support in America doesn’t make much sense. Human trafficking is already illegal. The point of the commercial should be to inspire others to raise awareness, not think about fallacies and events that happened 150 years ago. Maybe it does for some, but when I saw Lincoln in a 21st-Century setting, I was more confused than moved.