ACLU Launches Innovative Campaign in New York Times Classified Advertising Pages

December 3, 1999 12:00 am

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NEW YORK – Readers poring through the classified ads looking for a job, a used car or a new home will find that the American Civil Liberties Union has got something it wants to sell them: itself.

An innovative campaign launching this weekend will bring the ACLU’s unique hard-hitting messages to the classified ad pages of the nation’s most influential newspaper.

Careful readers of The New York Times will discover three unusual advertisements – conceived by DeVito/Verdi Advertising — in the real estate, help wanted and automotive classified pages:

— House for Sale: Beautiful Colonial home, four bedroom, three bath. Stolen from an elderly couple by the United States government because drugs were in their grandson’s room. Though the grandparents were never arrested or convicted, the government seized their home, sold it and kept the proceeds. All without a trial. Fight this injustice. Support the ACLU.

— Help Wanted: Teaching Position. Lesbians need not apply. Consider what happened to one highly qualified female applicant in Montana. She was fifty years old, had no children, and the school district said she had “male traits.” They decided she was gay and gave the job to a less qualified man. In fact, most states today do not have laws protecting people from discrimination based on sexual orientation. Fight this injustice. Support the ACLU.

— Car for Sale: 500SL Luxury Sport Coupe. Its performance is unmatched on the highway. Unless you’re black and driving on some interstates. Then you could be pulled over and searched by state troopers for fitting a drug courier profile. These humiliating and illegal searches are violations of the Constitution and must be fought. Support the ACLU.

“We are using these ads to say that the everyday tasks of finding a home, buying a car, or searching for a job are suddenly not so mundane when faced with discrimination or law enforcement excesses,” said Ira Glasser, Executive Director of the ACLU.

The advertisements mixed in with the traditional classified pages of the Times are part of the ACLU’s newest ad campaign, which also features full-page display ads in the Times, the New Yorker, USA Today and other publications.

The provocative full-page ads address issues of religious liberty, racial profiling and police brutality in ways that the ACLU hopes will spur discussion and persuade people to support individual rights and the ACLU.

Ellis Verdi, President of DeVito/Verdi Advertising, which designed both the full-page and classified advertising campaigns, said that this is the first time advocacy messages have been brought to the classified pages.

“We had a lot of fun with this concept,” he said. “By marrying the message to the media, we are reaching our target audience in a context that involves them. What better place to tell job seekers about discrimination than in the help wanted section?”

The classified ads, which include the ACLU’s web page address, will run in the Sunday paper on Dec. 5, 12, 19 and 26. Visitors to the ACLU’s web page at will be able to click on a feature with links to the relevant content of each ad.

The ACLU is a nationwide, non-partisan organization dedicated to defending and preserving the Bill of Rights for all individuals through litigation, legislation and public education.

Headquartered in New York City, the ACLU has 53 staffed affiliates in major cities, more than 300 chapters nationwide, and a legislative office in Washington, D.C. The bulk of the annual $40 million budget is raised by contributions from members — 275,000 strong — and gifts and grants from other individuals and foundations.

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