New Provocative Ad Campaign Targets Antisemitism

New Provocative Ad Campaign Targets Antisemitism

Campaign is part of a national effort by JewBelong to cultivate more concern about antisemitism in American life.

The first billboard in the JewBelong campaign was launched in time for last month’s Peachtree Road Race.
The first billboard in the JewBelong campaign was launched in time for last month’s Peachtree Road Race.

A national organization known for its aggressive use of outdoor advertising to raise awareness of rising antisemitism has brought its billboards to Atlanta. JewBelong, which is headquartered in New York City, bought its first billboard on Peachtree Road just north of Piedmont Hospital.

The billboard went up ahead of the Peachtree Road Race, in time to be seen by the thousands of Atlantans who turned out for the race, along with the thousands of cars that have driven by each day since. Its message was simple and direct. In large, white letters on a bold, pink background it asked a provocative question:
Can a billboard end antisemitism? No. But you’re not a billboard.

JewBelong, which was founded nine years ago to promote greater participation and pride in Jewish life, particularly among youth, launched their campaign last summer with a $400,000 advertising buy in high-traffic locations in New York, including Times Square.

One of the group’s founders, Archie Gottesman, sees the effort as an extension of the attempt to raise awareness in so many other social and political issues in American life.

Archie Gottesman founded JewBelong to raise pride and participation in Jewish life.

“We see so much effort being put into what I would call social justice issues, the effort to increase awareness of gun violence, racial equality, even autism, to bolster knowledge of that issue. And I don’t think antisemitism should be any different. If we want to shine a light on an injustice that’s occurring, we need to do that by provoking awareness and that’s exactly what this advertising does,” Gottesman said.

Another billboard, next to the Sage Hill Shopping Center off Briarcliff Road — not far from the Jewish neighborhood clustered off Briarcliff and LaVista — also has a provocative message in pink and white.

“If Atlanta is too busy to hate, why is there a swastika at my kid’s school?” it asks.

The message has particular resonance for an Atlanta metro community that has seen a number of antisemitic incidents in public schools over the past several years. Just last month considerable controversy erupted over a new school emblem in Cobb County that bore a striking resemblance to the Nazi eagle. But Gottesman believes her campaign is not just about speaking out about discrimination.

“It’s like a sign of Jewish pride. That’s why we chose pink and white,” she says. “They’re very bold colors. They say, let’s go on the offense instead of constantly playing defense. So many times, Jews who have seen the billboards say it made them feel proud because they’re tired of the nonsense and angry that it’s happening.”

Veteran advertising executive Joey Reiman was part of the committee that underwrote the local campaign.

There have been campaigns in San Francisco, Philadelphia, D.C., Miami, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. All have been aided by a network of local supporters. In Atlanta, one of the local committee members is Joey Reiman, who has had a long and highly successful career in advertising and public relations.

Reiman believes that campaigns like the one JewBelong has created pay off because they get the attention of mainstream media and cut through the clutter of so much ineffective advertising. The billboards received prominent attention in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and at Fox5, the local Atlanta outlet for the national network. Reiman argues that relatively modest advertising budgets can produce big results.

“Successful advertising happens not just when people drive by the billboard, it happens when it creates interest from other media,” he says. “Is the message a little edgy or aggressive? Yes. It needs to be to generate the media interest that expands the reach of your message and gives it real power.”

JewBelong started its national billboard campaign against antisemitism last summer in New York City’s Times Square.

The newly appointed Southeast Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League, Eytan Davidson, welcomed the new initiative. Davidson pointed out that last year antisemitic incidents in Georgia increased 133 percent and, if national trends are any indication, the numbers could increase.

“It is clear there is a heightened sense of awareness among the Jewish community that antisemitism has reached a dangerous level,” Davidson said. “While there is no silver bullet to stop antisemitism, there are and will continue to be new efforts to combat it, which is something this moment is calling for.”

The campaign in Atlanta is expected to extend into the fall, with another 10 billboards to target additional high-traffic locations in the metropolitan area. For Gottesman, it’s all about fostering discussion.

“Getting people’s attention, Jews and non-Jews, about antisemitism is very, very important. It’s a huge thing, actually, just getting them into the conversation.”

read more: