The Ad Council knows its business well. And when it comes to a topic like bullying—which feels almost epidemic since social media made it visible, shareable and snackable—it's safe to say it also knows a few things about our relationship to teen bullying specifically.
Given the chance to return to an epic point in our lives, few would choose teenhood, the bullying hotbed of the human trajectory.
But we're also fascinated by adolescent drama—how a small comment or suspicion can become massive and world-ending; how, blinded by the vacuum of your youth, few adults recognize how dramatically you are being altered or even destroyed. The popularity of 13 Reasons Why is a good example of this fascination, with a special focus on the awful stuff.
Thankfully, "Honest Yearbook," a new spot by agency TBD, isn't about that.
Yearbooks—the lasting benchmark of how high school panned out! A book replete with "Have a nice summer!" tells a horrible story.
Yearbooks predate social media, but served much the same purpose: When you wrote in one, you immortalized who you were in relation to whoever you signed it for. That's why those "Have a nice summer"s felt so caustic—it was an act of violence, even it wasn't intentional. It was issued at a vulnerable moment for whoever saw you as important enough to extend their book outward, pen in hand; the responding subtext was basically "I don't have a single valuable memory of you to whip out right now."
So, yearbooks are a lot of pressure. And in the end, our missives—scrawled between classes or at lunch while others waited—were not always the most representative of why your relationship mattered.
In "Honest Yearbook," people whose lives were changed by others actually share how they were impacted in a kind of reality TV surprise format. These tales are largely positive, though a second, follow-up video is split between good and bad:
Midway through the latter, we're given a message: "Everything you do and say creates an impact."
Overall, "Honest Yearbook" is light on the trauma and terror of bullying. But that's pretty refreshing, because we've got stuff like 13 Reasons Why to guilt-bait us. In the same way not everyone is an intentional bully, not everyone realizes how a small act of kindness can be transformative. So it instead works harder to recognize teens in this last category.
Cruelty is often casual; curiously, it sometimes takes courage to commit to even the smallest healing act. We don't always get feedback for whether it even mattered.
It helps to be reminded that the combat against bully culture isn't just fought with restrictions or guilt. It is also fought when we turn our empathy into action.
"Honest Yearbook" was directed by Shea Glover, and "Because of You" by Claire Jantzen—two young directors repped by Adolescent Content. (Claire, who is 19, wrote a piece for Muse this week about her creative journey as a commercial director.)
Swipe or click through the yearbook photos here:
And check out some OOH executions here:
Client: Ad Council
Heidi Arthur, Chief Campaign Development Officer
Sheri Klein, VP, Group Campaign Director
Hannah Blatt, Campaign Director
Madeline Miller, Campaign Manager
Allison Greenwald, Assistant Campaign Manager
Julia Blumenstyk, Director, Strategy and Evaluation
Ellyn Fisher, SVP, Marketing and Communications
Meg Rushton, VP, Marketing and Communications
Ben Dorf, Director, Marketing and Communications
Sean Williams, Assistant Manager, Marketing and Communications
Angelia Roggie, Assistant Manager, Marketing and Communications
Samantha Ellman, Director, Digital Project Management
Carolina Trevino, Digital Project Manager
Gregory Kelly, Media Strategist
Rafael Rizuto, Chief Creative Officer
Sara Uhelski, Copywriter
Leila Moussaoui, Art Director
Bruno Menon, Designer
Jordan Warren, CEO
Robert Woods, Senior Account Director
Jeff Burger, Engagement Planning Director
Virginia Wang, Chief Strategy Officer
Minnie Bredouw, Youth Specialist
Rob Lee, Executive Producer
Production Company: Adolescent Content
Claire Jantzen, Director ("Because of You" PSA)
Shea Glover, Director ("Honest Yearbook")
Ramaa Mosley, Founder, Executive Creative Director
Hope Farley, Founder, Executive Producer
Jamie Tubbs, Line Producer
Michael Kortlander, Director of Photography
Iris Ray, Photographer
Post-Production Company: Beast
Jon Ettinger, Executive Producer
Blake Bogosian, Editor
Music House: Future Perfect
Website Production: hasan & partners
Marc Stevenson, Executive Producer
Dean Clatworthy, Lead Developer