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July 6, 2022

How one LinkedIn post sparked a network of pro-choice, pro bono marketers

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Originally posted in Marketing Brew.

In the time between the May 2 leak and the June 24 Supreme Court Dobbs v. Jackson decision, many marketers and agency leaders were silent on the issue of abortion. But not everyone.

After the leak, Meryl Draper, CEO and co-founder of video ad agency Quirk Creative, asked her LinkedIn connections if there was interest in forming a rapid-response coalition of agencies and creatives to provide pro bono work for pro-choice organizations. She told Marketing Brew the response was “overwhelming.”

“I think sometimes people are just looking for a way to contribute, but it’s hard to take the first step,” she said.

To date, Draper has made 34 matches—10 on the day Dobbs was announced—across 15 pro-choice organizations to support needs like SEO, web development, photography, and media planning. With Roe now overtuned, they don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

Amy Merrill, digital director and co-founder of Plan C, which provides information on at-home abortion pills, told us the match program was an “incredibly timely offer after the leak.” One of the agencies Plan C was matched with after reaching out to Draper was Grey Horse, which has helped with things like media training, social media communications, and press.

Merrill said Grey Horse has helped get the word out about Plan C’s resources for information about abortions. “We have to [highlight] these roots of access for someone living in a restricted state to understand what is still possible so they can mitigate extra harm or mitigate this violation of their human rights as they are blocked from choice,” she said.

Receiving pro bono help, Merrill said, has helped free up Plan C’s resources to support its staff, grassroots efforts, and abortion funds.

Kate Gardiner, CEO and founder of Grey Horse, told us her agency allocates about 20% of its time to pro bono work. Beyond Plan C, the agency has also worked directly with the Hope Clinic for Women in Illinois and Melissa Mills, the daughter of “Jane Roe” Norma McCorvey.

The day Roe was overturned, Gardiner said all 10 of her staff members were working pro bono on reproductive-rights causes.

Banding together

Draper said most volunteers have been women or women-identifying, but it’s been “heartening to see…men coming out of the woodwork” to help. Jaki Levy, founder and CEO of web development company Arrow Root Media, told us he’s been working with the New River Abortion Access Fund in Virginia to secure its website and protect it from DDoS attacks as part of the match program.

Levy said that orgs like the New River Abortion Access Fund are “gonna come under even more attack” now that Roe has been overturned, “so now it’s time to make sure to protect organizations to continue to provide access.”

He said he felt powerless after the Dobbs leak, but the LinkedIn post was a “catalyst that jump-started [him]” into taking action.

“We all want to help and do something, but rarely do we get an opportunity to do the thing that we’re actually good at [and] touch that we want to help,” Audrey Aiken, creative director at brand studio Thread, told us.

Aiken took Draper’s post to her company’s leadership team, and Thread now has about five of its 26 employees working with the National Abortion Federation, writing copy and messaging for a support hotline for people seeking abortions.

Mona Lipson, director of social good at VidMob, told us she has reached out to reproductive-rights organizations directly, but said it can be difficult because many are “understandably…very busy and most organizations are severely understaffed.” She said it’s been helpful to have the match-program listserv where organizations can share their needs, like Mothers Against Greg Abbott (MAGA) did with a video project that VidMob is now helping with.

“There are platforms that match up nonprofits who need corporate money and corporations [that] have money, but this [is a] unique collaboration of media resources,” Lipson said.

Draper said it’s important for industry players to think about how they’re going to support reproductive rights long-term.

“Listen, the ad industry can feel pretty soulless, like what we do ultimately is we sell things. So it’s hard sometimes to look beyond that. But if we strip that away, we realize we are an industry of communicators…And so I think our skill sets across the industry are exactly what the cause needs right now,” she said. “It’s just about finding a way to support any way you can.”