Nonprofit Ad Meant to Stem Violence Results in Death Threats

February 8, 2011; Source: DesMoinesRegister.com | Yesterday we reported how a purposely-insensitive Groupon television ad that ran during the Superbowl, mocking the plight of Tibetans, triggered negative reactions and resulted in an apology from the company's chief executive.

Now comes word of another Superbowl campaign, launched with good intentions by an Iowa nonprofit that serves victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, that so enraged some people that they've issued death threats against the organization's head. The campaign by Riverview Center in Dubuque encouraged people to watch television ads other companies were airing during the Superbowl and "pay attention to some of the negative messages" they contain. The campaign also invited people to visit Riverview's website to learn about what they can do to help end violence and sexual abuse.

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Among the items on the Riverview site is an ad that features a smiling baby with the following voiceover: "He’s tough. He’s strong. He’s aggressive. He raped his girlfriend. But he wasn’t always this way. What are you teaching your son? …” Although the spot has been airing for about a year on television stations in northeast Iowa and parts of Illinois and Wisconsin, Sunday's campaign brought attention to it for the first time to many more people, including some around the world alerted to it by other blog postings.

After the ad aired, the angry emails began pouring in to Josh Jasper, Riverview's president and CEO. Said Jasper about the outraged responses: “I appreciate and respect when people have differing viewpoints. But for individuals to take it to a personal level and threaten my life, that’s taking it too far.”—Bruce Trachtenberg