Of course that “illness” is toxic online behavior and bullying. The ad, created with agency BBDO New York, also asks viewers to send in their phone number, which gives the campaign a pretty striking twist we won’t spoil here. Suffice to say, it brings the message home in a very real way.
Last year, the Pew Research Center reported that 59% of American teens have been bullied or harassed online, while a UNICEF poll this year found that one in three teens in 30 countries had been subjected to some form of cyberbullying. Merriam-Webster defines “epidemic” as an outbreak of disease that spreads quickly and affects many individuals at the same time, and the growth of online harassment among young people certainly qualifies.
In a statement, Lewinsky said bullying is a global epidemic, and the signs can often be hard to see. “But make no mistake; there are real, offline consequences that range from bad to grave,” Lewinsky said. “With ‘The Epidemic,’ we’re working to build vital awareness, help people learn empathy through experience, and remind anyone who is being bullied: please don’t suffer in silence.”
“The Epidemic” follows last year’s “#DefyTheName,” which featured celebrities owning the worst insults hurled at them, and 2017’s Emmy-nominated “In Real Life,” which illustrated what some common online behavior might look like in analog.