Recognizing the history-making election of Barack Obama, Bonnie Hammer, president, NBCU Cable Entertainment and Universal Cable Productions, today announced that USA Network is launching Characters Unite, a new multimedia platform committed to combating prejudice and intolerance while advancing acceptance and understanding.
Drawing on the legacy of USA's award-winning Erase the Hate campaign in the 1990s, Characters Unite is based on the premise that life is richer when people see beyond stereotypes and appreciate our individual differences - from race, ethnicity, religion and national origin to age, gender, sexual orientation and physical disabilities. The program will focus on what each of us can do individually and collectively in our daily lives to acknowledge and respect our shared humanity.
Unveiled today are key components supporting the initiative, including a multimedia pledge drive for tolerance and understanding, the creation of an advisory board of national organizations, and plans to field a national opinion survey to assess issues and attitudes related to intolerance and prejudice.
"When we began developing Characters Unite over a year ago, none of us could have foreseen a more perfect climate in which to launch this initiative," said Hammer. "Though Barack Obama's election represents a giant leap forward in overcoming 'isms' that surround us, we can't be complacent - research shows that hate groups are alive and well. With the help of our expert advisory board, we hope that Characters Unite can play a role in bridging the gaps that continue to divide us."
Characters Unite has assembled a powerful coalition of committed non-profit organizations to serve as its advisory board, including AAPD (American Association of People with Disabilities), ADC (American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee), ADL (Anti-Defamation League), Amnesty International USA, the Asian American Justice Center, GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), the NCLR (National Council of La Raza), LCCR (Leadership Conference on Civil Rights) and Southern Poverty Law Center. Coalition partners will play a critical advisory role in shaping the Characters Unite agenda, while the pro-social change initiative will actively support the related efforts of these organizations.
Coalition research was conducted to help shape and inform the initiative's future messaging, content and strategy with the end goal of driving broader awareness and meaningful action around issues of intolerance and prejudice. Among the findings of the SPLC (Southern Poverty Law Center) is the fact that hate groups have shown a startling +48% increase since 2000 - and they reside in virtually every state in the country.
Characters Unite will be launched on Martin Luther King Day, Monday, January 19. The on-air and on-line campaign will kick-off with aggressive call-to-action promos asking Americans, despite their individual differences, to sign an online pledge for unity and mutual respect. Those who pledge will have the chance to see their names featured on future Characters Unite promos during USA Network broadcasts and on a rolling ticker online.
The pledge will serve as the digital centerpiece for the charactersunite.com launch. Surrounding the pledge will be information about the program and its advisory partners, simple actions people can do in their daily lives to combat intolerance and prejudice, community features where people can share their personal stories and ideas, as well as an interactive Facebook application.
An integral element of the Characters Unite social action plan is to establish an annual poll to take the nation's pulse on issues and attitudes related to intolerance and prejudice. With the purpose of publishing results and leading a national discussion, USA Network will partner with a leading research company to create a national omnibus survey to probe current attitudes surrounding racial, religious, and cultural differences in the USA.
Promos and campaign strategy were developed in conjunction with Citizen Group, a San Francisco based agency specializing in values-based brand strategies and campaign creative work across media.