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Calls to Action

The Advertising Council and Autism Speaks Launch New PSAs to Raise Awareness of Autism

NEW YORK, N.Y. (July 7, 2010) – The Advertising Council, in partnership with Autism Speaks, North America's largest autism science and advocacy organization, announced today the launch of a new series of public service advertisements (PSAs) designed to raise awareness about autism and to empower parents to take action if their child is not meeting certain developmental milestones.

According to the CDC, autism is the fastest-growing developmental disorder in the United States, with life-long consequences for individuals, families, and society. Today, 1 in 110 children – including 1 in 70 boys – is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, a 600 percent increase in the past 20 years. This complex brain disorder affects a person's communication, behavior and social interaction. Despite the growing prevalence, research shows that many parents of young children have very little knowledge about autism.

“This multi-year campaign has been remarkably effective, elevating awareness of the growing prevalence of autism and the importance of early diagnosis and intervention to ever-increasing levels,” said Bob and Suzanne Wright, Co-founders of Autism Speaks. “Our partnership with the Ad Council has far exceeded every expectation, and we remain indebted to them for their ongoing commitment to this cause.”

Created pro bono by BBDO New York, the new English and Spanish-language television, radio and print PSAs, as well as English-language outdoor and Web ads, feature a real family living with autism and illustrate the startling odds of having a child diagnosed with the disorder. The television PSA was directed by Oscar nominated director Lasse Halstrom who is behind Hollywood films such as What's Eating Gilbert Grape, Cider House Rules, Chocolat and, most recently, Dear John. Audiences are encouraged to visit to learn the signs of autism and to find out about early intervention.

“While there isn't a cure for autism and no effective means to prevent it, research shows that early detection and intervention can result in critical improvements for many young children,” said Peggy Conlon, President & CEO of The Advertising Council. “I am confident that these new PSAs will increase parents' knowledge about the prevalence of autism.”

“Because of the big increase of people on the autism spectrum, autism itself is getting closer to home,” said Ronald Ng, Executive Creative Director, BBDO New York. “It is no longer someone in your distant friend circle; it is becoming a reality within your peers, and even your own family.”

According to Ad Council tracking surveys, as a result of the initial campaign, which launched in 2006, 20 percent more parents say they are hearing more about autism than they were a year ago. Additionally, the proportion of parents who believe that autism is very or somewhat common rose significantly from 45 percent to 68 percent.

The new television, radio, print, outdoor, and web banner PSAs are being distributed to more than 33,000 media outlets nationwide this week. Per the Ad Council model, the PSAs will run and air in advertising time and space that is donated by the media.

Autism Speaks
Since its inception in 2005, Autism Speaks has committed over $142.5 million to research through 2014 and developed innovative new resources for families. The organization is dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. In addition to funding research, Autism Speaks also supports the Autism Treatment Network, Autism Genetic Resource Exchange and several other scientific and clinical programs. Notable awareness initiatives include the establishment of the annual United Nations-sanctioned World Autism Awareness Day on April 2 and an award-winning “Learn the Signs” campaign with the Ad Council which has received nearly $236 million in donated media. Autism Speaks' family resources include the Autism Video Glossary, a 100 Day Kit for newly-diagnosed families, a School Community Tool Kit and a community grant program. Autism Speaks has played a critical role in securing federal legislation to advance the government's response to autism, and has successfully advocated for insurance reform to cover behavioral treatments. Each year Walk Now for Autism Speaks events are held in more than 80 cities across North America. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit

Autism Speaks was founded by Suzanne and Bob Wright, the grandparents of a child with autism. Bob Wright is Senior Advisor at Lee Equity Partners, Chairman and CEO of the Palm Beach Civic Association and served as Vice Chairman, General Electric, and chief executive officer of NBC and NBC Universal for more than twenty years.

BBDO New York
BBDO New York is part of BBDO Worldwide, an agency network of 15,000 people in 287 offices in 79 countries who work day by day, campaign by campaign, and client by client, to create and deliver the world's most compelling commercial content. BBDO is currently Network of the Year at Cannes, the world's most awarded agency network in The Gunn Report, and the most awarded global agency network across every marketing communications discipline in The Big Won report. BBDO is part of Omnicom Group Inc (NYSE: OMC) (, a leading global marketing and corporate communications company.

The Advertising Council
The Ad Council ( is a private, non-profit organization that marshals talent from the advertising and communications industries, the facilities of the media, and the resources of the business and non-profit communities to produce, distribute and promote public service campaigns on behalf of non-profit organizations and government agencies. The Ad Council addresses issue areas such as improving the quality of life for children, preventive health, education, community well-being, environmental preservation and strengthening families.