Stars Revisit the Names Bullies Called Them in New Campaign From Monica Lewinsky and BBDO

John Oliver, Olivia Munn and more aim to #DefyTheName

Celebrities including John Oliver, Tony Hawk, Olivia Munn and Questlove have joined the campaign. #DefyTheName
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Last year, Monica Lewinsky and agency BBDO New York brought online bullying into the real world by staging racist and homophobic encounters in public and highlighting that such attacks happen daily online.

That work was nominated for an Outstanding Commercial Emmy, and now it has a follow-up: #DefyTheName, a campaign aimed at turning the tables on bullies by embracing and disarming their insults.

In the launch spot for the effort, we see (or hear mention of) a wide range of celebrities who’ve been mocked as children or even adults, with the visuals contrasting the insults against the success each star has had.

“From personal experience I know that one of the most insidious effects of bullying is the feeling of isolation,” Lewinsky said in a statement announcing the campaign. “Especially for vulnerable populations, like our youth, it’s feeling alone and suffering in silence that breaks down confidence, degrades self-worth and leads to even worse consequences.”

The work, timed to correspond with National Bullying Prevention Month, is supported by a litany of organizations: The Amanda Todd Legacy, Anti-Bullying Alliance, The Childhood Resilience Foundation, Crisis Text Line, The Diana Award, Ditch The Label, Heart Mob, iHollaback, Project Rockit, Sit With Us, Think Before You Type and The Tyler Clementi Foundation.

The campaign encourages supporters to change their display names in social media to include an insult that was used against them by bullies.

Lewinsky has led that charge by changing her Twitter display name to “Monica Chunky Slut Stalker That Woman Lewinsky,” a reference to several of the insults aimed at her since her affair with President Bill Clinton came to light in the 1990s. Her choice notably includes “That Woman,” a term infamously used by Clinton in his initial (and patently false) public denial of any sexual relationship with Lewinsky.

Time will tell if that aspect of the campaign catches on, given that supporters might not be quite as willing to revisit their harshest insults and display them to the world. (The effort also awkwardly overlaps with the Twitter tradition of many users changing their display names each October to “spooky names” in advance of Halloween, though clearly there are enough days in a month to accommodate both.)

Discussing the launch spot, BBDO NY Creative Chief Greg Hahn says he hopes the work will show that insults don’t have to be obstacles to success.

“On social media, names and words are often used as weapons,” Hahn said. “By showing the names that well-known and highly accomplished people were once called as kids, we hope to use social media to diffuse the power of those weapons.”


CLIENT: Monica Lewinsky
SPOTS: “Defy the Name”

Chief Creative Officer, BBDO WW: David Lubars
Chief Creative Officer, BBDO NY: Greg Hahn
Creative Director: Bianca Guimaraes
Associate Creative Director: Roberto Danino
Head of Integrated Production: David Rolfe
Executive Producer: George Sholley
Producer: Jack Patrick
Music Production: Julia Millison
Business Manager: Grace Kelly
Director of Business Affairs: Bernadette Naughton
Account Director: Lindsey Cash
Account Director: Carrie White
Assistant Account Executive: Jackie Silver
Assistant Account Executive, Partnerships: Jordan Ji
Planning Director: Karin Santiago
Senior Comms Planner: Julie Naidu
Senior Analyst, Marketing Science: Crystal Lin
Creator Partnerships Manager: Lucy Bennett

Production Company: O Positive
Director: Brian Billow
EPs: Ralph Laucella and Marc Grill
Prod: Grayson Bithell and Jason Reda
DPs: Larry Fong and Jay Feather
Prod Designer: Maia Javan

Music Company: Hook & Line
Composed by Bryan Senti
Music produced by Hook and Line Music Inc.

Editorial Company: Number 6
Editor: Justin Quagliata
Assistant Editor: Benjamin M. Algar
Producer: Malia Rose

Executive Producer: Corina Dennison
Senior VFX Artist: Ed Skupeen
Senior VFX Artist: John Shea
Assistant VFX Artist: Mark Reyes

@griner David Griner is creative and innovation editor at Adweek and host of Adweek's podcast, "Yeah, That's Probably an Ad."