Meanness is on the Rise: New Campaign Pushes Back

In an effort to combat both online and offline bullying, the Ad Council has released Because of You, a new Bullying Prevention message aimed at heightening self-awareness and reflection among teens. The new work encourages teens to consider the impact of their actions, in a culture where meanness is normalized, to create a more empathetic, inclusive culture.

Because of You is timed around two crucial moments for the issue–back to school season and Bullying Prevention Month in October–and inspires teens to start the year off right. The creative shows teens sharing honest stories about how their peer’s words and actions, good and bad, impacted them. Developed pro bono by San Francisco-based independent creative agency TBD, and directed by youth creative studio and production company Adolescent ContentBecause of You will drive engagement with U.S. teens throughout the school year through a suite of new PSA assets placed in donated media and with support from media partners including Twitter and Snapchat. Twitter will provide a custom emoji for the #BecauseOfYou hashtag and leverage new products to amplify the campaign message.

In the online social experiment video “Honest Yearbook,” TBD uses the backdrop of a real high school yearbook photoshoot to capture the spontaneous reactions of teens who were surprised with testimonial videos from peers. The resulting film reveals a narrative of compassion, appreciation, and surprise, demonstrating that even the smallest gestures can have profound effects.

In an accompanying PSA, teens share real statements about the impact their peers had on their lives. Along with real high school teens, TBD enlisted the help of four talent ambassadors: actor Lonnie Chavis, YouTuber and actress, Jenn McAllister, content creator and makeup artist, James Charles and musician, Jacob Sartorius, who shared their own stories.

Given the critical importance of authenticity in delivering such a sensitive message to teens, TBD engaged Adolescent Content whose “for youth by youth” model puts teen and young adult directors behind the camera. Not far from the audience’s age range were 20-year-old director Shea Glover for “Honest Yearbook” and 19-year-old PSA director, Claire Jantzen, along with 23-year-old photographer Iris Ray for “Honest Yearbook.”

“We wanted to be as authentic as possible in encouraging teens to reflect on how their words and actions can have a profound impact on their peers, while not preaching to them,” said Rafael Rizuto, co-founder and CCO of TBD. “By reframing the conversation, we can demonstrate the effect teens have on each other, both positively and negatively.”

“Teens and adults alike don’t always realize how small actions and fleeting words can deeply affect others both positively and negatively,” said Lisa Sherman, President & CEO of the Ad Council. “We’re confident that this new campaign and approach to bullying prevention will raise awareness among teens and inspire us all to make empathy a priority.”

Teens are encouraged to visit and reflect on their own behavior through “Honest Cards,” an interactive activity that asks teens to consider positive and negative behaviors and what impact those actions have on their peers. The site also has more in-depth personal stories from creators sharing times they felt empowered or hurt because of someone else.

Ad Council corporate partners supporting the campaign include 3 MUSKETEERS®, Adobe, General Mills, and Twitter. Non-profit partners include Be Strong, Born This Way Foundation, The Bully Project, GLSEN, PACER National Bullying Prevention Center, and The Trevor Project. Partners will help extend the reach of Because of You to their respective audiences. The campaign was also facilitated by Beast’s editorial services, hasan & partners’website development, and HelpGood’s social media management.

The new creative is being distributed to media outlets nationwide and will run in donated time and space per the Ad Council’s model. To learn more about the campaign, visit and follow @BecauseOfYou on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter with the hashtag #BecauseOfYou.

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