Celebrities Speak Out for Civil Liberties in New ACLU Advertising Campaign

September 15, 2003 12:00 am

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NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union today announced the launch of a dramatic advertising campaign featuring renowned actors, authors, musicians and directors speaking out in their own words in support of fundamental civil liberties and the ACLU’s role in defending those liberties.

“This first-ever branding campaign is part of an overall effort to inform the public about who the ACLU really is: an organization committed to defending fundamental American values for more than 80 years,” said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero.

Pictured with the provocative headline, “I Am Not An American Who?,”each celebrity featured in a “Scrapbook for Freedom” advertisement describes a civil rights issue that defines American identity and cites the ACLU’s commitment to defend those rights. The black-and-white print advertisements, created by the Los Angeles-based firm Benenson/Janson, feature specially commissioned documentary-style photographs of each celebrity, designed as “up close and personal” portraits of the real people behind the public faces.

The portraits and quotations in the ACLU’s “Scrapbook for Freedom” series feature a virtual “Who’s Who” of public figures well known as vocal advocates of America’s core values of freedom and fairness – including Al Pacino, Martin Sheen, Wendie Malick, Hector Elizondo, Kristin Davis, Kurt Vonnegut, Samuel L. Jackson, and Jake Gyllenhaal. Several of the celebrities, including Sheen, Elizondo and Malick, are members of Artists United, a coalition of politically progressive artists.

The advertising campaign was featured in The New York Times in a Sept. 12 advertising column, which noted that the use of well-known personalities is a departure for the ACLU and that “a large number and volume of celebrities had volunteered their time and images for the campaign.” In keeping with its general condemnation of dissent in America, a Justice Department spokesman called the campaign “absolutely outrageous.”

One of the first ads to appear will feature author Kurt Vonnegut with the quote: “I am not an American who thinks my government should secretly get a list of the books I read. I am an American who knows the importance of being able to read and express any thought without fear.”

“Our ads feature celebrities because of their ability to draw attention to an issue and to focus public attention on an important topic,” Romero said. “These recognizable people aren’t afraid to speak out for freedom and fairness – they are role models for millions of Americans, and they also represent the 400,000 active ACLU members who share those values.”

The ads are scheduled to appear in full-page spreads in national magazines from September through December. Also appearing in national monthly magazines in the October launch of the “Scrapbook for Freedom” campaign are advertisements featuring actor Richard Dreyfuss, musician Michael Stipe of REM and the cast of Def Poetry Jam on Broadway.

Future entries in the “Scrapbook for Freedom” include: actors: Alec Baldwin, John Cusack, Taye Diggs, Gary Dourdan, Emilio Estevez, Melissa Gilbert, Jake Gyllenhaal, Anthony Michael Hall, William Hurt, Samuel L. Jackson, La Tanya Richardson, Wendie Malick, Al Pacino, Katey Sagal and Martin Sheen; directors: Richard Masur and Spike Lee; performer Moby; publisher Larry Flynt and skateboard champion Natas Kapas.

To reach the largest possible audience, the advertisements will appear in a range of monthly magazines, including The Atlantic Monthly, Hispanic Magazine, the Ivy League magazines, Legal Affairs, Out, The Fader, Interview, Paper Magazine, Utne, and Vanity Fair.

The advertisements will be brought together for distribution in an ACLU “Scrapbook for Freedom” following the completion of the campaign. The photographs will also be exhibited, along with political New Yorker magazine covers, at the Conde Nast building in New York City beginning December 12.

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