In a series of arresting ads that strike at the essence of preserving and protecting the right to freedom of speech, the non-profit and non-partisan Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, FIRE, launches its first national ad campaign this week aimed at appealing to Americans across the full political spectrum.
Breaking in this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, the initial ad invokes Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech to depict what would be lost if the right to free speech is silenced. The ad coincides with the following day’s national holiday honoring the civil rights leader.
Featuring the headline: “No Free Speech, No I Have A Dream,” the double-page ad kicks off a campaign of print and digital marketing executions that stress the need to be able to speak freely, whether it’s in support of gun rights or gay rights, pro-choice or pro-life causes, etc. The ad concludes, “It’s because of free speech that we’re all free to share our dreams.”
“Across history, people have fought for the right to be who they are, speak their mind, and share their dreams for a better future,” said FIRE Vice President of Communications Nico Perrino. “Unfortunately, the importance of free speech in a free society is too often forgotten or taken for granted. The argument for this precious right needs to be made directly and unapologetically to every new generation. That’s what this campaign hopes to accomplish.”
A second ad that will run later this month in the New York Times Magazine focuses more on the perils and dystopian reality of censorship. Its headline reads: “Free Speech is Never as Dangerous as Those Who Try to Silence It.”
Subsequent ads will address the phenomenon of “cancel culture” and noteworthy legal and advocacy cases undertaken by FIRE to protect free speech rights. The digital component consists of a strategy dubbed “FIRE drills,” a rapid response approach to media using semantic and contextual targeting, as well as native ads and timely social media posts. This programmatic-led initiative will be delivered in news feeds and 100+ news and political websites across the nation.
The campaign aims to positively predispose audiences to further understand and engage with the cause, become familiar with FIRE’s position as a non-partisan free speech advocate, and find their way to the organization’s website where they can learn more and join FIRE’s mailing lists.
This marks the first time FIRE has undertaken national advertising to spread awareness of the importance of defending and sustaining the right to freedom of expression. The campaign was created by the independent advertising agency DeVito/Verdi, which was named the non-profit’s marketing partner last year. The New York agency has a long history of award-winning public service and cause-related advertising for clients, including the Campaign for Freedom post 9/11, the ACLU, Planned Parenthood of New York, a national pro-choice effort (PEP) and the Defense Department (“Support the Troops”).
“FIRE is taking the lead in this country to combat the chilling effect of silencing speech,” said Ellis Verdi, president of DeVito/Verdi. “This campaign shows that our calls for change depend on anyone and everyone’s right to speak freely.”