Wednesday, August 26, 2009
According to Eric Gutierrez, a creative director at DDB, ‘‘TurnOut’’ targeted voters who ‘‘might be open to a discussion about rights in the workplace.’’ Polls conducted by the Gill Foundation showed that, out of a wide range of LGBT issues, equal rights in the workplace was considered highly important; more than 80 percent of straight people felt that everyone should have such rights. These findings prompted DDB to center the campaign’s most prominent aspect, the television spots, on this issue. Rodger McFarlane, executive director of the Gill Foundation, told Business Wire, ‘‘Numerous studies, including our own, reveal that a majority of ‘straight’ people are appalled when they know that non-discrimination protections don’t exist for many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens.’’ The campaign was also aimed at the 56 percent of Colorado voters who did not support gay issues.
The ‘‘TurnOut’’ television spots showed six real people dissatisfied about hiding their sexual orientation from coworkers. Filmed as minidocumentaries, the spots featured the employees coming out at work. Lisa Herrera, for example, ended five years of silence about her personal life by placing a picture of her girlfriend on her desk. Steve Calhoun, a prototype tester at Detroit’s Ford Motor Company, said his coworkers were not supportive when he came out. Each person also lived in a state that permitted employers to fire people for being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. Gill Foundation volunteers told the Rocky Mountain News that the biggest challenge for ‘‘TurnOut’’ was getting straight, like-minded voters, specifically those under the age of 35, to vote. Even though volunteers felt that they could make a bigger impact by talking to voters oneon-one, ‘‘TurnOut’’ allowed the Gill Foundation to make gay-rights issues visible inside voters’ homes.
In 1992 Colorado voters passed an amendment to their state constitution that negated the power of laws protecting Americans from sexual-orientation discrimination. Four years later the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the amendment. The issue, remaining relatively undisturbed for years, exploded in 2004 when San Francisco’s mayor allowed the city to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples.
In 2004 Colorado Republicans Musgrave and Allard proposed an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that banned same-sex marriage. If passed the amendment would affect survivor benefits for children and spouses
in same-sex families. At the time, same-sex families were also denied more than a thousand federal benefits that opposite-sex families qualified for. At the state level only three states granted same-sex marriages the same rights and responsibilities bestowed upon so-called traditional marriages.
The Gill Foundation, which had been founded by software tycoon Tim Gill in the 1990s, reacted by rallying voters to support same-sex marriages and antidiscrimination laws. As part of the ‘‘TurnOut’’ campaign, voter-mobilization tool kits were sent to some 250 organizations around the country, encouraging voters to elect candidates such as Colorado’s Stan Matsunaka, who did not support the proposed amendment. Ted Trimpa, a Colorado attorney and gay-rights lobbyist, told the Rocky Mountain News that it was time to politically ‘‘go after people who go after us.’’ Many in LGBT communities feared that if the wrong candidates were elected, they could hinder the rising momentum of the gay-rights movement. ‘‘We can’t afford to lose,’’ Trimpa continued in the Rocky Mountain News. Gill Foundation organizers were telling volunteers to encourage similar-minded voters to ‘‘vote like your civil rights depend on it.’’ Television spots for the ‘‘TurnOut’’ campaign focused on antidiscrimination issues, specifically in the workplace. At the time, only 14 states protected citizens from being fired because of their sexual orientation. Surveys conducted before the campaign indicated that mainstream voters felt sympathetic about the problem of workplace discrimination.
In 2004 the issue of same-sex marriage catapulted into the media spotlight when San Francisco’s newly elected mayor, Gavin Newsom, allowed city officials to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Colorado became a focal point for the issue after two of its politicians, U.S. Representative Marilyn Musgrave and U.S. Senator Wayne Allard, proposed an amendment that banned same-sex marriage. Also based in Colorado, the Christian group Focus on the Family Action began campaigning to preserve what it considered ‘‘traditional’’ marriage. In response Denver-based Gill Foundation, America’s largest contributor to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) organizations, launched the ‘‘TurnOut’’ campaign to drum up voter support for same-sex marriages and sexual-orientation antidiscrimination laws. Between 1994 and 2004 the Gill Foundation invested nearly $54 million in LGBT-related issues, and in 2003 it contracted advertising agency DDB Seattle to create the ‘‘TurnOut’’ campaign for the months preceding the 2004 presidential elections. Television and print advertising appeared in July and targeted cities that had no laws to protect Americans from losing their jobs because of their sexual orientation. Six television spots played like minidocumentaries, showing real people coming out in their workplaces. These employees described what it was like to keep their personal lives secret at work and explained how they planned to disclose their sexual orientation to coworkers and management. The spots ended by directing viewers to http://www.TurnOut.org, a website that revealed the results of each person’s effort and explained other key LGBT issues.
Although Musgrave was reelected in 2004 and Allard was reappointed to serve as a deputy majority whip in 2005, a survey showed that, by the end of the ‘‘TurnOut’’ campaign, its audience felt more receptive to same-sex marriage issues. From an ad industry standpoint ‘‘TurnOut’’ was highly successful; it won five awards at the 51st Annual Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival as well as a Clio Award.