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Project Liberty Ads Blanket NYC This Week

While many advertisers go conservative or dark this week in deference to the first anniversary of Sept. 11, at least one campaign is in an all-out blitz.

Project Liberty, a New York state-initiated, federally funded service offering free counseling to New Yorkers, is urging those still struggling with the effects of the terrorist attacks to call 1-800-LifeNet.

With advertisers scarce, Project Liberty is a chance for some media outlets to pay a few bills without looking crass. As a result, New York-area media are practically throwing spots at the project.

“No one else is advertising that day,” said Ed McGahan, Project Liberty account director for New York ad agency The Sloan Group. “We're basically in the driver's seat being that we're not selling soap, it's a relevant time period and everyone else is backing off.”

CBS, for example, offered Project Liberty 30 spots for Sept. 11, triple what was deemed necessary.

“I said, 'This is a great price, but it's over-saturation,'” McGahan said. Instead, Sloan bought 10 spots on CBS for Project Liberty on Sept. 11.

All told, Project Liberty has received upward of $7 million worth of media for about $4.5 million, McGahan estimated.

“If you live in the New York City area and don't see this campaign, you're living under a rock,” he said. “We've received tremendous value for our dollar. Everyone should know what Project Liberty is by the middle of October [when the campaign ends].”

The campaign includes seven television spots and five radio spots aimed at six audiences: general, parents, senior citizens, rescue and recovery workers, teen-agers and Hispanics. Themed “Feel Free to Feel Better,” it features the voices of Alan Alda, Susan Sarandon and Rita Moreno.

Print ads will appear the two weeks before and after Sept. 11 in newspapers in New York City's five boroughs and the surrounding counties of Nassau, Suffolk, Dutchess, Westchester, Putnam, Rockland and Orange. The New York Daily News tabloid will feature a Project Liberty ad in its special cover wrap section Sept. 11. Project Liberty as of press time was one of only two advertisers allowed in the section. The other was unknown. No print for the effort will run in New Jersey.

Television spots will run on all major networks, plus cable stations including A&E, Bravo, Lifetime, MSNBC, TBS, USA and TNN. The teen spot will air on MTV, WB and BET. It uses real teens' voices, but is animated to avoid the appearance of lecturing.

“One of the things you always want to stay away from with teen-agers is the eye roll,” McGahan said.

The Hispanic part of the campaign includes TV spots on Univision and Telemundo, but is focused on radio. Hispanics tend to be highly loyal to Spanish-speaking radio stations, said Ludmila Palasin, vice president of marketing at Sloan.

“It is one of the more effective ways to reach that audience,” she said.

The Internet effort includes a microsite on WebMD with links to Project Liberty and resources on mental-health issues. Three Project Liberty-related chats with a psychologist are scheduled on WebMD for Sept. 11, Oct. 11 and Nov. 11.

“Some people aren't comfortable even making a phone call, so a chat is an anonymous way to air their problems and issues and get information,” Palasin said.

Ads geo-targeted to reach New Yorkers also will run in health-related areas of About.com, the Excite Network, Yahoo, AOL and MSN.

To gear up for calls, the Mental Health Association of New York City hired four new full-time counselors for LifeNet.

“People call here for everything. We've had calls from people asking for directions to Ground Zero,” said LifeNet spokesman Norman Katz. “We don't do any counseling over the phone. The sole goal is to assess and refer.”

LifeNet, which existed before Sept. 11, has 60 full- and part-time counselors.

It received 9,000 calls in August compared with 3,000 in August 2001. It received 7,800 calls in March, the six-month anniversary of the attacks. Katz said the organization has no idea how large of a spike in calls to expect this week.

The aim of Project Liberty, however, is not to get as many people to call in as possible.

“It's only to reach those who need it and let them know there's help available,” Palasin said. Judging the campaign's success will require “a post-campaign analysis using some combination of the number of calls and the quality of the calls,” she said.

A Project Liberty holiday campaign is scheduled to run from just after Thanksgiving through December.

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