When the inevitable back-to-the-office conversation reached Anchor Worldwide, creative director Aaron Sedlak noticed that one of his team members was hesitant.
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a variety of devastating consequences, including the spike in hate crimes against Asian American Pacific Islanders in New York City. During the pandemic, hate crimes against the AAPI community have increased by 300%.
“This colleague was with his parents in Queens, and all of his friends and family were scared to go out on the city streets because of all these anti-Asian attacks that were happening,” Sedlak said. “It triggered this thought, ‘Why aren’t we doing something?’ We have a lot of Asian American Pacific Islander employees in our creative department – why not take our particular set of skills that we use for our clients and do it for a cause we all care about?”
To that end, Anchor Worldwide launched the “Cure for Racism: AAPI Formula”, a guerrilla marketing campaign that distributes fake pill boxes in New York pharmacies to raise awareness of the problem. Sedlak compared the campaign to the works of Banksy, the anonymous street artist.
A label on the pillboxes reads: “There is no recommended dosage of anti-racist treatment. Only learning and understanding can help. If you are having racist thoughts or behaviors and are feeling increasingly violent towards others, stay home and rest. Still. Nobody wants racists on the streets of the city. We all belong here.
Pill boxes also encourage people to check StopAAPIhate.orga non-profit organization that aims to educate, raise awareness and report incidents of hate crimes.
Making the campaign a guerrilla operation was a necessity, Sedlak said, because Anchor Worldwide didn’t have a large media budget and knew it “wanted to connect with people in a visceral, real way.”
However, the team also understood the value of focusing the campaign on a physical and tangible element.
“Having this background of different products on the shelves – we use medicine in so many different ways to help,” Sedlak added. “It was like, ‘How can we frame a social movement as a medical remedy?’ It’s more surprising and less on the nose than your typical non-profit plays, which I think are blown away by white media noise.
Ultimately, the long-term goal of Cure for Racism is to raise awareness and engage more people in the fight against AAPI racism. In the short term, Anchor Worldwide seeks to foster conversation both in the real world and on social media.
“We’re joining an existing movement rather than trying to create one, so it’s us doing our part for a cause we believe in,” Sedlak said.
This story first appeared on MM+M.