October 26, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Clarisse Martin learned late last year that she was pregnant - something she had not planned and absolutely did not want. She was determined to have an abortion.
Shortly after finding out she was expecting she spotted a large billboard with the words, “Pregnant? Scared?” and the picture of a young African American woman and a phone number. Clarisse was pregnant, and she was most definitely scared. She called the number on the billboard, which connected her with a local pregnancy center. At the center, she requested an abortion, but her counselor explained that because they were a Christian organization, they did not provide abortions, but could help in a variety of other ways.
While Clarisse listened to the options available, she left the center still determined to terminate her pregnancy. However, over the next few days, she thought about the conversation and asked herself how she could say she was a Christian and still consider abortion.
She eventually went back and agreed to an ultrasound. Once she saw her little girl on the screen, Clarisse knew she would allow her daughter to be born. On July 28, beautiful baby Mary Joy took her first breath.
This true story is only one of thousands of such stories that happen across the United States and around the world every year, thanks in large part to the help of pregnancy resource centers such as those run by CareNet and Heartbeat International. But such pregnancy centers would be able to do nothing if women didn’t know they existed, and didn’t go to them when in crisis.
That’s where Heroic Media comes in.
The Beginning of Heroic Media
Heroic Media describes itself as “a faith-based non-profit that reduces abortion by creating a Culture of Life through television, billboard and internet advertising which connects women in crisis with life-affirming pregnancy centers.”
Brian Follett, the retired Texas businessman who founded the pro-life media organization in 2004, explained in a lengthy telephone interview that the name “Heroic Media” was chosen not in reference to the heroism of the organization, but because “the underlying message of all of our media is to promote the heroism of motherhood.”
Up until 2001 Follett owned a food manufacturing business, which he sold to major Canadian food corporation McCain foods. After the sale went through, Follett said he decided to go on retreat, and to spend some time praying in order to discern the next step. “At the time I was on retreat,” he says, “they were building a $6 million Planned Parenthood facility in Austin. So I would go and pray the rosary with folks from the church, and that was in the back of my mind.”
Ultimately Follett came up with about a dozen different projects that he was interested in pursuing, about ten of which were pro-life related. But after he came off retreat he suddenly remembered that pro-life media had been ongoing in the state of Wisconsin for more than ten years, “and just about every year the abortion ratio would go down.”
“So I said, ‘Oh, there’s no media being done in Texas.’” When he spoke to a number of national, state, and local pro-life leaders, they told him that they had been hoping to do media for years, but simply couldn’t raise the money needed to get it off the ground.
And thus began Heroic Media.
In the spring of 2004 Heroic Media ran its first thirteen-week TV campaign in Austin, at a cost of $250,000. In 2005, they did two thirteen-week campaigns, and then started running year-round billboards of the sort that saved the life of Clarisse’s baby.
Prayer and Research-Driven Pro-Life Activism
Heroic Media takes a unique approach to pro-life activism, in that nearly everything it does is research-driven. Not only are advertisements focus-group tested before they run, to ensure that they have the intended effect upon the target audience they are aimed at, but results are carefully measured in terms of any change in the abortion ratio in the markets where the ads run.
Heroic Media got an encouraging picture of how effective its advertizing campaigns are in 2008, when the state of Texas released its abortion statistics for 2005, the year that the “call for help” ads began to air in Austin. Strikingly, the abortion ratio had dropped 24% in the extremely liberal Austin market, even as it had climbed elsewhere in the state, such as in Dallas-Forth Worth. Prior to Heroic Media running their campaigns in the city, Austin had the highest abortion ratio in Texas, says Follett, “and now of all the major media markets, it’s the lowest.”
Follett is adamant that prayer is the ultimate and by far the most important foundation for pro-life work. But he is equally adamant that pro-life activism requires careful forethought and planning using the best tools at our disposal. He also believes that wherever possible results should be measured, which allows groups to fine-tune their methods, and to determine where they should put their resources. The equation for measuring success is quite simple, he says, “the number of abortions divided by live births” in any given market.
“It’s very easy to produce pro-life ads that excite pro-life people,” he says, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the ads are changing the hearts and minds of people who are not already pro-life, or that they are bringing women with crisis pregnancies through the doors of pregnancy resource centers.
In reference to the overwhelming success of their Austin campaign, Follett says that some might ask whether or not the success can simply be attributed to prayer. “Of course it’s prayer,” he says. “But,” he continues, “why would God choose to make abortion decline only in Austin? Why not Dallas-Forth Worth? So we think that there’s a big connection in how God uses media.”
The simple truth is that advertizing works, says Follett, who points to other campaigns such as the Smoky the Bear campaign, or the “Don’t Mess with Texas” campaign, that stand as a testament to how media is able to shape public opinion and behavior. “If we can use media for something that’s kind of important, the environment, why can’t we use media for something as important as life?”
Additionally, he points out, pro-life media appears to have the power to attract attention from business owners, even those who might not otherwise consider giving to the pro-life cause, simply because they know from experience what media has been able to do for their businesses. “What’s so attractive to business leaders across the country, is they understand what makes their businesses successful, so they really get media,” says Follett.
Nevertheless, while Heroic Media is passionately devoted to applying the most advanced tools and techniques available to its work, Follett continually returns to the theme of faith, which he says is the core principle of Heroic Media’s work, without which it could accomplish nothing. Every morning, says Follett, “we have all of our staff from across the country will all call in to one line, and we start the morning with prayer. And it’s only about 10 minutes and we get everybody together, and it just grounds us in Who is making the change.”
He adds, “And we’re all cognizant of Who it is, and it’s not us. Sometimes we like to think it’s us but that’s just not how it works.”
The Future of Heroic Media
Currently Heroic Media is running two 13-week TV campaigns per year, in addition to the perennial billboard campaigns. Their life-affirming TV ads run on MTV, Univision, and Black Entertainment Television (BET).
The last station in that list, BET, points to the focus of Heroic Media’s latest project, which is drawing attention to the massive racial imbalance in the abortion rate in the U.S., and the fact that Planned Parenthood specifically targets minority neighborhoods with its abortion facilities.
The campaign, entitled Planned Parenthood Aborts African Americans, or ppAbortsaa, uses billboards, TV commercials and a website to proclaim that “the most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb.” The website observes that “An African American baby is three times more likely to be aborted from the womb than a white baby,” and highlights the statistic that Planned Parenthood has placed upwards of 70% of its facilities in minority neighborhoods.
Ironically, says Follett, while Heroic Media has had little trouble getting highly liberal stations such as MTV to air many of their previous campaigns, the ads for ppAbortsaa are being rejected on the basis of “racism.”
“I’m beside myself trying to find out how it’s racist,” said Follett.
When asked what the goals are for Heroic Media in the years ahead, Follett responds simply that the organization wants nothing more than to help crisis pregnancy centers all across the U.S. do their job by getting pregnant women in crisis situations to seek them out.
“We work for Carenet and Heartbeat International,” he says. “Our goal is to generate traffic and to help the pro-life movement reduce the abortion ratio throughout the country.”
In order to do that Heroic Media has a strategic plan to have five regional presidents around the United States, and to find 1 million pro-life people who are willing to help get pro-life media on the airwaves. Already Heroic Media has 25 staff members scattered throughout the country, and has made tremendous strides in expanding into new markets, including Jacksonville, Florida, and Chicago, Illinois. The organization is also doing work in Latin America, and runs a website for teens, TeenBreaks.com, which uses keyword advertizing on the internet to outbid pro-abortion groups like Planned Parenthood.
Thanks to its highly effective approach, the organization has won endorsements from high-powered figures including, most prominently, vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who recently spoke at a gala hosted by Heroic Media. Others include talk show host Laura Ingraham, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, and Col. Oliver North.
But for Heroic Media it isn’t the endorsements of the rich and the famous that matter, but rather women like Clarisse Martin, who have been inspired to take the “heroic” path and to spare the lives of their unborn babies, and who have found a world of happiness in the process.
To find out more about Heroic media, click here.