Ad Council Marks 9/11 With Immigrants’ Tales

Tom Tor escaped the “killing fields” of Cambodia. Eugenia Dallas fled genocide in the Soviet Union under Stalin. Yuri Gevorigian evaded torture in Armenia.

Their stories are part of a campaign that breaks today in the Ad Council’s “Freedom” PSA effort, coinciding with the second anniversary of Sept. 11. Directed by Joe Pytka, the three 30-second spots—”Tom,” “Eugenia” and “Yuri”—were created by WPP Group’s Ogilvy & Mather in New York. A 60-second iteration of the three commercials, as well as radio spots, are part of the mix.

Omnicom Group’s TBWA\Chiat\ Day in Playa del Rey, Calif., created a concurrent print effort. The ongoing tagline, “Freedom. Appreciate it. Cherish it. Protect it,” remains.

“The whole project started with trying to find people who had come to this country from places where freedom is a much scarcer commodity,” said Chris Wall, senior partner and co-head of the creative department at Ogilvy. “We didn’t want ad writers writing this. We wanted people telling stories.”

Wall and Phil Dusenberry, former chairman of BBDO North America and head of the Ad Council’s creative task force on the campaign, considered about 40 immigrant interviews compiled by Ogilvy before narrowing to the final three.

“We were looking for people whose stories were unusual and compelling,” said Dusenberry. “We wanted people you could relate to and feel good about.”

As Tor, Dallas and Gevorigian discuss their experiences, images of the Statue of Liberty and the Lincoln Memorial and excerpts from the Constitution appear behind them. “If I stayed in Cambodia, I would have been dead,” Tor says. “Why did I come here? Freedom.”

Dallas tells viewers she has been in the U.S. for 52 years. “Freedom to me means my life,” she says.

Print ads remind readers that America started with immigrants. “What do you get when you mix Christianity, Judaism and Islam?” the text asks. Copy goes on to say that while the mixing of these religions is a “recipe for disaster” in parts of the world, in America it is a “formula that has peacefully endured.” The work refers readers to a Web site to get more information, to see the spots or to volunteer.

Ad Council CEO Peggy Conlon said additional creative will break next year. Dusenberry will not work on the next campaign. Mike Hughes, president and creative director of The Martin Agency in Richmond, Va., will replace him, Conlon said. Hughes will issue a call soliciting ideas from shops interested in doing pro bono creative before the end of the year.

Past efforts included the flag-flying “Main Street USA” work by New York independent DeVito/Verdi, which also created spots that imagined a U.S. without various freedoms.

Conlon said the campaign so far has received more than $170 million in donated media. She added that she is pleased with the results, but said the council does not set goals for donated media.