As Republicans try to advance toward their goal of defunding Planned Parenthood, a trio of advertising employees thinks it has found a way to convince people it’s misguided: by tricking them into learning more about what Planned Parenthood does.
Alyssa Georg, Elena Knox, and Claudia Cukrov work for New York-based ad agency SS+K. They’ve launched a website and Twitter account aimed at engaging some of Planned Parenthood’s most vocal critics online.
Defundpppetition.com urges users to sign a petition to cut funding for Planned Parenthood.
But it’s actually a bait. The website is designed to educate people about Planned Parenthood’s various offerings. Planned Parenthood is a client of SS+K’s – but the website creators say they’re not working for the organization on this. A Planned Parenthood representative also said the organization has nothing to do with the website.
This is how it works: Users who want to sign the petition must select and acknowledge to cut funding for all 64 of Planned Parenthood’s various services – including things like breast cancer screenings and pap smears.
It probably doesn’t take long for users to figure out they’ve been duped.
Those who simply select the option to “defund abortion,” for instance, are greeted with a red pop-up message that informs them that no federal government dollars have funded abortion since the Hyde Amendment, according to which federal funds cannot be used to pay for an abortion except in the case of rape, incest, or if the mother’s health is endangered.
Similarly, those who select all the 64 services see a snarky prompt: “Just want to make sure you’re cool with cutting affordable birth control for over 2.8 million people and putting 900,000 women’s lives at risk every year?”
Of course, employing hacks and tricks is a time-tested tactic in advertising. A Burger King campaign that triggered TV viewers’ Google Home devices to suddenly start explaining what a Whopper is, for example, won an award at the Cannes Lions advertising festival this week. Similarly, mattress startup Casper’s “Late Night Snap Hacks” campaign last year, let users trick their Snapchat followers into thinking that they’re out about town, instead of at home on their beds.
The creators of the site say their intention is to just engage people who have made up their minds about the nonprofit, and won’t interact with them otherwise. The Senate Republican leadership just released a draft of its long-awaited healthcare bill, which says that no plans purchased using funding from the bill can cover abortions or be given to healthcare providers that are involved with abortion. This means that in addition to restricting anyone who uses the credits or other funds from getting plans that covers abortions, this would effectively defund Planned Parenthood. It is unclear, however, if this will pass Senate rules.
“People are so polarized today that there is no room for even reasonable conversation,” said Cukrov, a senior digital strategist at SS+K. “We wanted to engage with some of those people on the other end of the spectrum, and one way of doing that is to appear to be agreeing with them.”
The trio has also created a fake Twitter account by the name of Gayle Wright, a “happily married country girl and mother to four amazing children,” who is also listed as being a patriot and #ProLife. The aim is to engage their target audience by appearing to be like one of them. The account urges those engaging with the hashtag #defundplannedparenthood to visit the site and “take action.”
Since it launched on June 8, over 14,000 people have visited their Twitter page. While 70% of people have been blindly retweeting their tweet about defunding Planned Parenthood without actually delving into what the site is about, some people have engaged with it and shared tweets of new things they learned from the site, Cukrov claims.
This is isn’t the first political side project for Georg and Knox.
The copywriter-art director duo created readbetweentheheadlines.com back in March, to give people what they called unbiased, impartial news, untainted by any political affiliation. They also worked on a $20 million campaign by Emily’s List and Priorities USA, the super PAC supporting Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, to persuade millennial women to vote.