MADD Canada Controversy

madd_logo.gifAn ad in a Los Angeles trade paper seeking men interested in participating in the production of a Public Service Announcement on behalf of MADD Canada (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) has stirred up a controversy.

The ad seeks straight acting men to portray friends in a car, stoned out of their minds, who begin to “make out” with each other. Titles at the end of the commercial would warn people of the dangers involved in doing drugs, specifically the temptation of homosexuality. Even worse, the end of the ad suggests the boys making out are brothers, bringing incest into the picture. UPDATE AT THE END OF THIS STORY…

This is the actual ad . Click on the image below to enlarge the picture
The controversy was made public by Jerome Cleary, a writer and comic who, after seeing the advertisement wrote a letter about it that was initially published in the Los Angeles Independent. It was quickly picked up by websites and blogs across the nation to become a national news story.

At this point the advertising agency which represents MADD Canada is claiming full responsibility for the PSA, stating that it was done without the knowledge of MADD. The agency claims this was not meant to be an official PSA, but rather an “attempt to test areas that were more relevant to a younger target group”, whatever that means. The agency apparently wanted to see if there was any merit to the PSA. While there are conflicting stories from all sides of the controversy, it appears the PSA was indeed cast and filmed in Los Angeles. 

The writer of the original letter, Mr. Cleary, has written a follow up piece which is posted on the Advocate website. After hearing the conflicting stories he attempted to contact the parties involved and found himself mired in vague answers and un-returned phone calls. I myself sent an e-mail to MADD Canada explaining I would be covering the story and to ask for either confirmation or denial. I have not received a response, as apparently neither has Jerome Cleary.

Regardless of whether MADD was aware of this “test PSA”, the agency involved was not only aware but created it from scratch. This means that the agency believes that young people will believe and have a strong reaction to the suggestion that smoking marijuana makes it possible for two young straight men to become at least temporarily gay. Beyond that it makes it possible for two young straight brothers to enter into a gay incestual relationship. Even if you take it to the most capitalistic reasoning, it makes it no less insidious. While LGBT Americans are fighting every day to simply be granted equal civil rights, lies and manipulations are sabotaging our battle, and using the vulnerability of young, heterosexual men in order to perpetuate and enhance falsehoods for no other reason but to benefit the ad agencies bottom line.

Following is a response from MADD to my email requesting verfication of this story. I  received it today (July 13th, 2006).  There’s a brief intro and a copy of the letter MADD sent to the Los Angeles Independent in response to Jerome Cleary’s letter.

Thank you for your email. We have responded to the article written by Jerome Cleary and confirmed that we had no knowledge of this PSA being created. See below.

June 16, 2006

Andre Herndon / Executive Editor / The Los Angeles Independent
4201 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 600 / Los Angeles, CA 90010  Via FAX:  (323) 556-5704

Dear Editor,
Re: Why I’m mad at MADD by Jerome Cleary (June 7, 2006)

I write with reference to the above article that appeared in your publication on June 7, 2006 in order to clear up a serious inaccuracy. MADD Canada (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) was not part, nor party to any such creative idea as described by Mr. Cleary. His insinuation that the organization was involved in this PSA creative process is presumptuous and he has done a tremendous disservice to the MADD organizations and our supporters with his misinformation.

At no time prior to the publication of the article in the LA Independent did MADD Canada or MADD U.S. have awareness that this PSA creative was being explored.  In fact, it was only by hearing from 30 or so irritated individuals who followed Mr. Cleary’s suggestion to contact our offices did we first become aware of this PSA idea. Given that, we ask the LA Independent issue some form of statement to correct the blatant falsehood that MADD was involved with the PSA.

As with any large public facing organization, MADD has clear policies and mechanisms that ensure that no PSA or ad gets to air which would in any way single out, cause offence or marginalize any group. Indeed, respecting diversity is a crucial aspect of our work since the issues we seek to address are not limited to one particular section of society.

Since it’s foundation in 1980, MADD has prided itself with developing award-winning PSAs that aim to alter motorists’ behaviours and habits with respect to drinking and driving. MADD Canada is fortunate to have a tremendous working relationship with our advertising agency, whose creative is recognized for its effectiveness and lasting impact. We believe that, over the past two decades, the combination of evolving public policy and greater public awareness has been successful in reducing innocent people from being killed or injured as a result of impaired driving. 

MADD Canada respectfully asks from the LA Independent for equal space to Mr. Cleary’s misinformed and damning article. We also hope that next time Mr. Cleary make unsubstantiated claims that they be checked for accuracy.

Andrew Murie / Chief Executive Officer / MADD Canada
c.c. Chuck Hurley, CEO, MADD U.S.

Dawn Regan / Director of Finance & Fundraising / MADD Canada

2010 Winston Park Drive, Ste 500  Oakville, ON L6H 5R7 / 800-665-6233; 905-829-8805, ext 223
Fax: 905-829-8860   [email protected]


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