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Bullies are put on the spot in PSA campaign backed by Monica Lewinsky

A bullying prevention public service campaign for social activist Monica Lewinsky calls attention to the problems of cyberbullying by using real life situations.

‘In Real Life’ is a PSA campaign that features a powerful short film, along with new additions to the #BeStrong suite of emojis, and has been released during Bullying Prevention Month in October. The film and emojis are designed to bring attention to the epidemic of cyberbullying and offer solutions.

The short film asks the question: “If this behavior is unacceptable in real life, why is it so normal online?” In it we see people bullying others, like a guy in a café telling a gay couple to kill themselves, or a bunch of girls picking on another girl on the street, or a woman calling a Muslim woman a terrorist. We find out later that the bullies and the victims are actors, but the situations play out in public, and people come to the defense of the victims.

All the words said by the bully actors were actually taken from real comments from real people on social media channels.

While the PSA draws attention to the difference between how people behave online versus in real life, the #BeStrong emojis allow people to take action when witnessing online bullying.

BBDO New York created the pro bono campaign, working from insight shared by Lewinsky. The agency collaborated with Lewinsky and public relations firm Dini von Mueffling Communications.

The #BeStrong emojis provide smartphone users with a free downloadable keyboard of custom emojis created in collaboration with messaging platform creator Snaps. Lewinsky was instrumental in their creation, working with a semiotician to design them, as well as Portland-based graphic designer Kirsty Munn. Voted on by almost 5,000 young people around the world, the emojis are designed to visually embody compassion and solidarity for when words fail.

“The internet is an incredible tool that has allowed for unprecedented connection and the instant sharing of ideas. But in occupying a disembodied, digital space, we also risk losing our humanity and forgetting that other people are beyond the screen,” said Lewinsky. “This campaign is a wakeup call to remind people that our instincts for empathy and caring are still strong. We just need to consciously extend that thinking online.”

Added Greg Hahn, chief creative officer at BBDO New York: “We wanted to remind people that at the receiving end of every comment is a real person. And words have real impact. It’s all too easy to forget that in today’s online culture.”

Lewinsky entered the national consciousness in 1998 as part of the Clinton scandal, and overnight her previously private life became sensational fodder for the nascent world wide web. Her digital reputation was savaged in one of the first global news stories to break online. After a self-imposed departure from public life she returned and established herself as a voice in the bullying prevention space.

Lewinsky works with numerous anti-bullying organizations, and her 2015 TED Talk, 'The Price of Shame' has been viewed over 11m times and translated into 41 languages.

'In Real Life' aims to have viewers reconsider the effects of their words and actions online, and help educate and protect a new generation of internet-literate youths, who are at extreme risk. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that suicide is the leading cause of death for teens and young adults, estimating that one in five teen suicides are caused by bullying. Between 2007 and 2014, rates of death due to suicide among children more than doubled.

This campaign is in support of these organizations: The Amanda Todd Legacy, The Bully Project, The Childhood Resilience Foundation, The Diana Award + Anti Bullying Pro, Dance Free Movement, Ditch the Label, Global Dignity, Heart Mob, Hollaback!, Project Rockit, Sandy Hook Promise, and The Tyler Clementi Foundation.

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