GS&P Tackles Sexual Assault on Campus with Somber ‘Unacceptable Acceptance Letters’

By Patrick Coffee 

Before we descend into the regrettable politics of the matter, let’s all agree that sexual assault is a recurring problem on college campuses across America and that it affects institutions ranging from state schools you’ve never heard of to some you probably have…like Harvard University.

In order to address this, Goodby Silverstein & Partners created a campaign timed to coincide with Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The spots and print work play off a twist on the classic college acceptance letter video, and the reveal is more than a little shocking.

Here’s the anthem “The Unacceptable Acceptance Letters.”


The issue at hand goes well beyond the fact that far too many women are raped in college. It also concerns the failure of many institutions to properly support their own students when such attacks are reported.

The campaign also includes extended versions of each of the cases in the anthem above. Here are a couple of them, with the first presenting another very disturbing statistic around :20.

…and in case you thought this issue only concerns women:

The online summary of that spot reminds us that 1 in 16 men are also sexually assaulted at college. Many, many others have knowledge of such acts but don’t properly report on them for one misguided reason or another.

According to the release, inspiration for this project came from The Hunting Ground, a film about rape on college campuses that focused on Johnsons’s alma mater UNC Chapel Hill. GS&P collaborated with advocacy group Ultraviolet and production company PRETTYBIRD, whose founder Kerstin Emhoff was also involved in the film mentioned above.

From Goodby’s executive creative director Margaret Johnson:

“The first six weeks of college is the period when freshmen have the highest likelihood of being raped. So we timed our campaign to raise awareness at the earliest point when college becomes a reality—the time when incoming freshmen receive their acceptance letters. The cover-ups are just as unacceptable as the attacks, and the campaign aims to hold these colleges accountable. We hope that people will take action through social media.”

Beyond the videos, this campaign also includes print ads that ran in The Harvard Crimson and USA Today over the weekend and a website called Don’t Accept Rape which encourages incoming students to sign a petition demanding that their respective colleges deal with this problem more effectively.

Here is one of the print ads, which is a reproduction of the same acceptance letters featured in the spots above.

acceptance letter

Note the chilling alcohol qualifier at the end.

Rape is obviously not a laughing matter…and it’s not something to be shared on social media either, as confirmed by a horrific story from today’s New York Times. The release for the Goodby project tells us that its “online films…tap into the trend of teens posting acceptance videos on social media.” In this case, however, one teen livestreamed a sexual assault in progress. The victim was her own friend.

From that story:

Mr. O’Brien, the prosecutor, said Ms. Lonina had apparently hoped that live-streaming the attack would help to stop it, but that she became enthralled by positive feedback online.

“She got caught up in the likes,” he said.

Truly beyond disturbing.


Agency: Goodby Silverstein & Partners
Title of Creative Work: Unacceptable Acceptance Letters

Co-Chairmen: Jeff Goodby and Rich Silverstein
Executive Creative Director/Partner: Margaret Johnson
Creatives: Laura Petruccelli, Rohan Cooke
Designer: Todd King

Director of Broadcast Production: Tod Puckett
Executive Broadcast Producer: Hilary Coate
Director of Graphic Services: Jim King
Associate Technology Director: Andre Cardozo
Retouching: Quinn Gravier

Account Services
Account Director: Cassi Norman

Brand and Communication Strategy
Director of Brand Strategy: Bonnie Wan
Director of Communications: Meredith Vellines
Sr. Communications Strategist: Caitlin Neelon
Brand Strategist: Gabriella Svensk

Business Affairs
Business Affairs Manager: Heidi Killeen

Production Company
Company Name: Prettybird
Executive Producer:  Kerstin Emhoff, Suzanne Hargrove
Associate Producer:  Nick Miller
Producer: Nathan Scherrer
Director: Brewer

Company Name: Cut + Run
Executive Producer:  Deanne Mehling
Editor: Christopher Kasper

Company Name: Spy Post
Executive Producer: Lori Joseph
Colorist: Chris Martin

Company Name: Yessian
Composer: David Gold

Company name:  One Union

End Treatment Graphics
Company Name: eLevel