On Monday December 5, 2011 Autism Speaks Co-founders Suzanne and Bob Wright and New York Center for Autism (NYCA) Co-founders Laura and Harry Slatkin honored iconic fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger for his commitment to increasing awareness and support of the autism community at A Funny Affair for Autism – a star-studded evening of fashion and comedy that helped raise over 1.3 million dollars for individuals with autism and their families.
Hosted by NBC Nightly News Correspondent Peter Alexander, the unprecedented event took place at The Plaza Hotel and drew over 400 guests who were treated to a hilarious comedic performance by “Saturday Night Live” stars Seth Meyers and Bill Hader and a special musical performance by the NYCA Charter School. In addition, comedian and Curb Your Enthusiasm star Susie Essman and Lydia Fenet of Christie’s led an entertaining auction of celebrity designed Christmas trees and menorahs, courtesy of QVC and Bethlehem Lights. The menorahs and trees raised nearly $65,000 and featured festive creations by Martha Stewart, Jimmy Fallon, Tommy Hilgier, Adam Sandler, Jonathan Adler, Tiffany & Co., Isaac Mizrahi, and artisans at Godiva.
Tommy Hilfiger, who was presented with the evening’s award by friend and CNN national correspondent Alina Cho, has a longstanding relationship with Autism Speaks as an advocate. Along with his wife, Dee, he co-hosted the Third Annual World Focus on Autism, which brought together first spouses from around the world to discuss solutions to combat the global crisis of autism. In addition, Hilfiger donated his time to appear in Autism Speaks’ new Ad Council public service announcement to help raise awareness about the one in 110 odds of being diagnosed with autism and encourage the public to learn its early warning signs.
All proceeds raised during the evening will go towards Autism Speaks’ research into the causes, prevention, and treatments for autism; as well as to help fund the NYCA, a regional non-profit organization dedicated to addressing the needs of individuals and families living with autism spectrum disorders.
Media coverage and additional photos from the event:
AUTISM SPEAKS and AD COUNCIL LAUNCH NEW PSAs Featuring Tommy Hilfiger and NASCAR Driver Jamie McMurray
In 2006, Autism Speaks partnered with the Ad Council and BBDO to produce the autism “Odds” campaign. The Public Service Announcement (PSA) campaign was designed to demonstrate the odds of a child reaching milestones parents think about often compared to the much greater chances of being diagnosed with autism. We all dream that our child will one day be a professional athlete or famous musician, but in reality the “Odds” of your child having autism are far greater. Today, we launched two new spots featuring celebrities Tommy Hilfiger and Jamie McMurray.
The campaign has been a tremendous success, generating over $300 million in donated media, earning numerous awards, and most importantly, serving as a major catalyst to the rise of autism awareness in the general public over the last five years.
Part of the campaign’s impact can be attributed to the support of celebrity advocates whose lives have been touched by autism, such as golfer Ernie Els and singer Toni Braxton. These individuals have selflessly opened up about their private lives to show the world that while they have “beat the odds” to reach the pinnacle of their respective professions, they couldn’t beat the one and 110 odds of autism affecting their families – a powerful message that educates the audience about autism prevalence and the importance of learning its signs.
Building on this success, we launched the newest “Odds” PSAs featuring fashion icon Tommy Hilfiger and NASCAR driver Jamie McMurray, who both generously donated their time to help further the cause of autism awareness. Created pro bono by BBDO, the new PSAs take viewers on a voyage through Hilfiger and McMurray’s lives, highlighting the extraordinary statistical odds they each overcame on the road to their highly successful careers and ending with the startling one in 110 odds of having a child diagnosed with autism.
To capture Hilfiger and McMurray’s stories, BBDO crafted intricate handmade fabric and paper models that were brought to life by 3D computer animation. The resulting imagery is captivating – the viewer is lulled into storybook worlds where they witness Hilfiger and McMurray’s respective journeys from humble beginnings down the road to success, before being brought back to reality by the odds of a child being diagnosed with autism. The PSAs end by encouraging parents to visit autismspeaks.org/signs to learn the signs of autism and to seek early intervention if a delay is suspected.
Autism Speaks is extremely grateful to Hilfiger and McMurray for sharing their personal stories in an effort to raise autism awareness. We also want to express our gratitude to BBDO and the Ad Council for their hard work and continued support. We are all very proud of these new PSAs and the impact they’ll have on the general public. Please take some time to check them out and feel free to give us your feedback.
This guest post is by Bill Shea, Autism Speaks’ National Director of Creative Services. He has been with Autism Speaks since the very first meeting in Bob Wright’s office at 30 Rock and one of his responsibilities has been offering creative guidance to the Ad Council and BBDO.
When BBDO and the Ad Council launched our first awareness campaign in 2006 the CDC numbers said that 1 in 166 children were on the autism spectrum. The challenge faced at that time was “How do we raise awareness about autism and to get the world to listen?”
Our first campaign was called the “Odds”. It was designed with the insight that parents and guardians have certain dreams and aspirations for their child. We all dream that our child will be the next Britney Spears or the next Derek Jeter. The “Odds” of your child having autism were greater then your child becoming a professional athlete, or a Grammy award-winning singer.
The campaign was immediately accepted and rapidly became one of the Ad Councils most popular campaigns. In its first year, the “Odds” campaign was ranked among the Ad Council’s top ten campaigns, with donated media reaching over 66 million dollars.
Just after we finished the second round of creative the CDC numbers changed from a prevalence of 1 in 166 to 1 in 150. We knew that our messaging was working but we also knew that we needed to make the spots more hard hitting – because the numbers were growing with no signs of a cause.
The team over at BBDO came up with the brilliant idea of turning the “Odds” campaign on its head. Why not show celebrities that beat the odds of becoming tops in their field but didn’t beat the odds of having a child with autism? The challenge then became who was going to be brave enough to show the world that they have a child on the spectrum? Well, we found them. Ernie Els and Toni Braxton. We never could have done the spots without the help of these two professionals who are at the top of their game. These spots helped to drive the message even further home and we saw awareness of autism rise over 20% among parents of young children.
Then in December of 2009, the CDC announced the latest prevalence statistics, this time to 1 in 110, one in 70 boys.
Autism IS closer than you think.
To quote Ronald Ng, executive creative director, BBDO New York, “It is no longer someone in your distant friend circle; it is becoming a reality within your peers, and even your own family.”
I am proud to introduce you to the new Ad Council campaign created this year by our excellent team over at BBDO. Bob Emerson (Executive TV Producer), Ronald Ng (EVP, Executive Creative Director), Tim Wettstein (Associate Creative Director) and Patrick Herold (Associate Creative Director) worked with award-winning director Lasse Hallstrom to come up with this riveting and powerful ad that really brings this message home. Dan, the young actor in the spot, has a niece on the spectrum and the dad at the end of the commercial is the real father of Max, who is on the spectrum.
Thanks to all the great media outlets out there who continue to give us free space to run these important ads. Thanks also to the Ad Council for taking us on for another three-year campaign. We are sure that this ad will take the message of autism awareness to the next level.
Read Autism Speaks’ press release here.
A new ad constrasting the odds of a child becoming an Olympic athlete contrasting the odds of a child being diagnosed with autism has been created as part of Autism Speaks’ award-winning “Odds” campaign.
Many thanks to our friends at the Ad Council and BBDO for this fabulous addition to our awareness campaign.
Autism prevalence figures are growing and we need answers.
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