Cannes Lions


BBDO , New York / THE KING CENTER / 2021

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This past February, the month of love, The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change (The King Center) launched a national movement around a very specific call to action: BE LOVE.

In the midst of political uncertainty, polarization, and global tension, BE LOVE is a call to action, not just to comfort or console, but to be a force for justice, propelled by love.

BE LOVE seeks to redefine and unleash the true power of love in order to advance and unite humanity. The campaign urges supporters to (1) take the pledge to BE LOVE, (2) sign up for The King Center’s Nonviolence365® virtual training, and (3) support and collaborate with local organizations standing against all forms of oppression – racism, social injustice, economic inequity, etc. – to help realize the ultimate goal of creating what Dr. King called The Beloved Community.


The campaign comes to life through a series of bold type-driven executions to serve the dual purpose of building awareness of the BE LOVE movement and providing education for what it means to BE LOVE. Lines such as, “Love doesn’t require force, it is one” and “Don’t Be Silent. Be Love” are more than creative proverbs; they are modern expressions of Dr. Martin Luther King’s six principles of nonviolence.

What better way to express love on Valentine’s Day than through candy? We created and mailed gold packages to celebrities and influencers with custom candy hearts that turned common sayings of “Be Mine” and “Kiss Me” into bold calls to action that further The King Center’s mission to BE LOVE: “Take the Pledge,” “Be Love,” and “Stand for Justice.”

The media activity is concentrated to run through June 2021; however, the message of BE LOVE is a long-term call to action.


Our challenge was to take love, often thought of as soft or sentimental, and awaken all people to its power. At the same time, we needed to resurface the teachings of Dr. King in a way that would resonate with a contemporary activism-minded audience. A technical challenge to contend with is that Dr. King’s likeness and voice may only be used in rare cases.

With this in mind, we built a highly graphical headline-driven campaign. The headline treatments borrow from the varied typography of screen-printed activist posters, while clean vector shapes situate the campaign squarely in the digital realm. Its interlocking pieces signify the contributions of many and the fact that our lives are dependent on one another. Meanwhile, the ultra-vibrant palette with unexpected color pairings evokes the necessary, important tension that we must get comfortable with in order to BE LOVE.


The campaign launched on February 10, 2021, just ahead of Valentine’s Day. After Valentine’s Day, the messaging shifted to evergreen expressions of BE LOVE.

Digital media included online video, social, and digital display banners. We ran full-page print ads as Valentine’s Day invitations to BE LOVE in The Wall Street Journal and USA Today. We executed direct mail packs to share the love via Valentine’s Day candy hearts. The website is a centralized hub to sign the pledge and sign up for Nonviolence365® training.

OOH ran in 22 cities across over 4,000 placements of donated media, including takeovers at Fulton Center in NYC and Salesforce Transit Center in San Francisco. High profile placements also included the Nasdaq and Thomson Reuters buildings in New York City.

As momentum builds, the campaign will expand to global reach. The pledge on is available in English, Spanish, French, and Mandarin.