It’s On Us Calls on College Students to Re-examine How They Talk About Sexual Assault in Bold New Ad

Autocorrecting the language that perpetuates rape culture

It's On Us uses a text conversation to tackle rape culture in latest ad. YouTube: It's On Us
Headshot of Katie Richards

A powerful new campaign from It’s On Us—a movement originally launched by the White House under Barack Obama and Joe Biden in September 2014—rolled out today. For those familiar with the campaign’s work, the new spot marks a bold shift from past ads.

“This is one of our most provocative ads, and we really love it,” Rebecca Kaplan, director of It’s On Us, Civic Nation, told Adweek. “It’s talking about language for the first time and how language really matters. What you say is often indicative of what you do, so this is focusing on language as a means of action.”

The new work—helmed by creative agency Mekanism with production by Sister, and animation and effects by The Artery—takes a different approach than the customary call to action from celebrities such as Olivia Munn and Jon Hamm.

"This is one of our most provocative ads, and we really love it."
Rebecca Kaplan, director, It’s On Us

The new work isn’t graphic, but still packs a punch in the most subtle way.

“Autocorrect” is told entirely through a texting conversation between two presumably college-age men. It uses the autocorrect feature on smartphones to highlight the difference between what we say and what we mean when we talk about rape. In this case, one is a perpetrator and one is a bystander who fails to intervene, and they talk about the incident later via text.

The campaign urges college students to change the way they discuss rape and recognize what is, and what is not, consent. Again, while the images are not graphic, the messages below may be triggering.

While early efforts of It’s On Us focused on building awareness for the movement through celebrity endorsements and encouraging American students to sign the It’s On Us pledge, this work pushes into a new territory. It’s calling on students to take action by organizing events at their universities including bystander intervention training, panel discussions and small-group talks about consent.

“This new round is really all about making it super personal to the audience. I think because of where we are in the lifespan of the campaign, we are able to be a little more provocative with this direction and make it a little more personal to the audience because we have this broad awareness,” Jason Harris, president and CEO of Mekansim, said.

While the campaign was launched through the White House, it’s not associated with the current administration. It’s a partner of the Biden Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to public service. Biden shared the video on Twitter today.

In its first two years, It’s On Us found great success, tallying over 400,000 online pledges and upwards of 2,000 events held by students on college campuses across the country. Throughout the first week of April, which is also the first week of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, It’s On Us will hold 300 events across the country.

@ktjrichards Katie Richards is a staff writer for Adweek.