Eye on Effectiveness: Invisible Hate with Alex Lukacs, VP, Creative Director at 22Squared

Alex VP, Creative Director at 22Squared shares the inspiration and strategy behind the innovative and disruptive 2021 AME Gold-winning campaign Invisible Hate, the national, anti-racism education platform created by 22Squared and NAACP Atlanta.

New York, NY | February 07, 2022

Alex VP, Creative Director at 22Squared spent some time with AME’s Effective Perspective to share the inspiration and strategy behind the innovative and disruptive campaign Invisible Hate.

The 2021 AME Gold-winning campaign Invisible Hate is a national, anti-racism education platform created by 22Squared and NAACP Atlanta for anyone to identify locally any of the 700+ national Confederate monuments co-indexed with their true racist histories and cross-referenced quotes of hate, digitally deface them for social media awareness, and contact local governments or NAACPs to get symbols removed once and for all.

Inspiring results include 40% of site visitors took meaningful action—wrote a letter to their congressperson, signed up to volunteer, or shared it on social media. 62% of site visitors were inspired to “think more about statues in my local community” and 65% said they wanted to “do more research on the topic.” The Invisible Hate website made 55% of the target audience aware of a new problem.

Invisible Hate brought information and truth together through technology, letting Americans take the conversation around Confederate monuments into their own hands and get symbols of hate all over the country removed once and for all.

AME Awards: What was the inspiration for “Invisible Hate” and how did you bring the idea to life?

Alex Lukacs: The inspiration for Invisible Hate came from a personal moment of ignorance. I had heard on the local news that there was a push for the removal of a Confederate Monument in my city’s square. The fact that there was a confederate monument in my town was new news to me and in that moment I felt uninformed and frankly, ignorant. As a white woman, I realized it was my unfair privilege that allowed these monuments to stay invisible to me. Because, to people of color, these monuments remained a painful reminder of the racism that still exists in this country. Knowing there were others out there like me that just needed to see the truth, I asked myself and my team, could we use technology to make these “invisible” monuments visible?

AME Awards: The campaign made invisible racism highly visible and initiated action against systemic and historic racism, what were the key elements that led to the success of this enlightening and effective campaign?

Alex Lukacs: The campaign went through many iterations, but ultimately, I think a lot of its success lies in its malleability to meet the cultural needs at that time. What started as an education-first platform evolved into one that was more accessible and more action-oriented. In 2020, people were craving change and craving ways to make a difference. Invisible Hate evolved to not only educate, but to allow people to become advocates -- sharing their thoughts on social and giving them a direct line to representatives to call for their removal.

AME Awards: Share some of your creative processes that led to selling this ground-breaking idea to the client.

Alex Lukacs: Selling in the work was easy. Internally, 22squared holds itself to a higher purpose of “doing good things.” This isn’t a political issue; this is a human one. And we immediately felt support from within our agency walls. Selling the idea to our friends at the NAACP Atlanta Chapter was also a no brainer. Richard Rose is one of the leading voices in removing relics that allow systematic racism to persist. Especially outspoken on local confederate monuments, they were sold on the idea from the very beginning; even if it was still just that: an idea.

AME Awards: Talk about the period from inspiration to final execution of the campaign including the development of the platform/site.

Alex Lukacs: It was easy to buy in the execution was the tricky part. Because of changes in technology, changes in the political landscape, and changes in cultures, we were constantly evolving the platform to do the best possible good and meet people where they were. Collaboration and bringing in the right partners was a key to making it real. At 22squared we work with an integrated team of creatives, comms strategists, creative technologists, and media specialists. We also enlisted the help of a 3rd party research firm, and award-winning production company m ss ng p eces to help bring their expertise into the process to influence the final product. The idea to digitally target symbols of white supremacy around the US is ground-breaking, arethere any stats on what percentage of citizens have walked by these confederate monuments and tributes without realizing they are symbols of hate and how has the website/app changed their perspective? Most of our success metrics came from site traffic. From August to December 2020, 40% of site visitors took a meaningful action—wrote a letter to their congressperson, signed up to volunteer with the NAACP or shared a social media post. Most sites see 2-5% of visitors take action. We inspired 62% of visitors to “think more about statues in my local community” and 65% said they “want to do more research on the topic.”

AME Awards: Please share any creative, technological, and logistical challenges you faced throughout the production and how you solved them.

Alex Lukacs: In the midst of the George-Floyd-inspired protests happening across the country at the time, it became abundantly clear that while people wanted to learn, they also wanted to act. We had a platform to do that. We made a huge pivot, from a downloadable app focused on education to a web app, available to anyone with access to the internet, that not only allowed users to learn but to become advocates for the cause. We pivoted the concept to include a social sharing component where people could “digitally deface” confederate monuments with protest-inspired stickers to show the world how they felt. Then, with one click, could have a direct line to their local representative to demand the removal of the monuments in their area.

AME Awards: What were some of the key strategic elements that led to the campaign’s success?

Alex Lukacs: I think the accessibility was key. Giving everyone with access to the internet easy access to the app, yes, but also being accessible to a wide variety of audiences on different points in their journey to learn more about race and the racist relics in our country. While the project is obviously called “Invisible Hate” for a reason, we positioned the platform as a human issue, not a political one. Your political affiliation didn’t mean you didn’t care about the oppressive nature these relics provoke in others. For those like me who lived in ignorance, it was an educational tool. We were careful to include as much primary data and research as possible so that the research behind each monument was indisputable.

AME Awards: What was the reaction internally at NAACP Atlanta to the impressive results of the “Invisible Hate” campaign? What results were you most proud of and why?

Alex Lukacs: The NAACP Atlanta is very grateful for the partnership with us; and us, them. They are an organization that does so much good but suffers from lack of resources. We were happy to help be a resource for them to enact change on such an important issue on both a local and national level. At the end of the day, monuments came down. And we hope more follow as we work to eliminate the Confederate symbols of racism that are pervasive in our culture.

AME Awards: “Invisible Hate” wowed the 5-region international AME Grand Jury. “Invisible Hate” earned the AME Gold Award for this breakthrough campaign, what does this world-wide accolade mean to the 22Squared team and your client?

Alex Lukacs: It’s humbling and exciting all at once. This movement is so much bigger than our project and we are grateful to have had an impact. It’s a refreshing reminder that creativity and the talent we have within the walls of an ad agency can be used for the greater good.

AME Awards: What is next for your client NAACP Atlanta?

Alex Lukacs: Richard Rose continues to be a voice for change in the local community and at the national level. I’m not sure anyone works harder or is more passionate than him. We are proud to be his partner, now and in the future. We’re currently working on another project with them. Too soon to share the details, but we have high hopes for our ongoing partnership to continue to affect change.