By Roy Spence, Chairman & Co-Founder, GSD&M
In response to 9/11, ten years ago GSD&M produced a PSA campaign called I am an American. Today a slightly revised version is now running again all over America.Here is the story. Like the dark day of the assassination of President John Kennedy at 12:30pm on November 22, 1963, the sniper shootings here at the University of Texas by Charles Whitman at 11:55am on August 1st 1966, the assassination of Martin Luther King at 6:01pm on April 4th, 1968 and Bobby Kennedy at midnight on June 5th, 1968…ten years ago at 8:46am on September 11, 2001 (9/11) Americans from all parts of our precious country will all remember exactly where we were and who we were with. I sure do. A small band of GSD&Mers and I were in Annapolis, Maryland just outside of Washington DC getting ready for what we considered a crucial and critically important presentation to our then client Land Rover. We thought leading up to 8:46am that this presentation was the most important thing going on that day. Then everything changed. Everywhere in America and around the world. And for sure in Annapolis, Maryland with our small band of brothers and sisters.
As I was trained in so many other circumstances-first get the facts then get going with a plan. I will not go into the minute moments because ours were so insignificant and so unimportant compared to the life and death moments of our fellow Americans in harm’s way, but nevertheless I had to get our people home. Judy Trabulsi was GSD&M’s air traffic control person in Austin trying to find out where all our family was and how to get them home as soon as possible without air travel. Our team was no exception. We packed into vans had headed south. All the time we kept saying what everyone else that was not in the life and death struggle was saying-“what can we do to help.” Near Raleigh Durham, North Carolina we decided we must try to use our talents in the creative and media arena to bring American together to insure that in the process of striking back at our enemies, not to strike on our own because they looked or sounded different. Within 10 days we produced the highly emotional and healing campaign called I am an American.
And ten years later, the ad council just posted the following in The Huffington Post:
“The agency called directors across the country and ask them to film Americans from every background and age throughout the country staring straight into the camera stating, “I am an American.” Typically, Ad Council PSA campaigns take six months for development and production. “I am an American” was produced and on air within 10 days of the tragedies. The spot was quickly embraced, and the public response was unprecedented. The PSA celebrated our country’s cultural identity and diversity and truly united our nation…”
I say prayers for the brave Americans who sacrificed and paid the ultimate price. I thank my business partners, all the loving and caring people at GSD&M and our beloved production partners. Ten years ago was one of the most shocking and horrific days of our generation’s American Life. And yet being a part of producing I am an American was the proudest moment in my 40 years at GSD&M.