Leading up to the 2018 Midterm elections, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) wanted to bring awareness to the importance of press freedom and Congress’ role in protecting it, launching the #DefendPressFreedom ad campaign encouraging the American electorate to ask Congressional candidates how they plan to protect freedom of the press if elected in November. Based on our successful pro-bono work with RSF on its 2017 and 2018 World Press Freedom Indexes, RSF gave us the opportunity to design a compelling, informative digital and print advertising campaign to support this important effort.
Through this campaign, RSF aimed to both establish itself as a prominent press freedom watchdog and publicly emphasize the important role that reporters play in informing the American public. Our deep understanding of the press environment instructed us on how to convey the right tone and emotion that would best speak to stifled and suppressed press. With this in mind, we developed an optimized print and digital campaign featuring high-contrast text over dark, somber tones to underscore the severity of the current state of press freedom in the United States.
The Glen Echo Group designed a series of visually engaging ads that were placed around the Washington, DC region—in public areas such as metro stations, bus shelters and in magazines—as well as in digital and print publications with national circulation.
In order to drive home the urgency and weight of the issue, we employed somber tones with clearly recognizable, but subtly altered symbols of the press—newspaper, a typewriter. An antiquated typewriter, paired with a rustic, patriotic background, gives historic weight to the message, “Free press is essential to our democracy.” And shredded newspaper dangled over the direct, powerful message—"There is no democracy without free press"—is a modern-day metaphor for the deletion of information. On both designs a bold call to action asked viewers to contact and question their local congressional candidates running for election about their plans to protect the freedom of the press.
The RSF #DefendPressFreedom ad campaign ran from mid-September of 2018 up until Election Day in a number of major, nationally syndicated publications such as USA Today, McClatchy, The Texas Tribune and via News Media Alliance and Association of Alternative Media’s many, widespread member outlets.
Beyond placement in traditional print and digital media, RSF—along with a number of their partner publications—promoted the assets widely on social media, successfully maximizing engagement with voters across the country.