In order to save the books, they had to threaten to burn them. At least, that’s the story told by Leo Burnett Worldwide, a Michigan advertising company that just won nine awards at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. The kudos were for a P.R. campaign on behalf of the Troy, Mich., public library. A ballot measure was up before the Troy electorate last summer, seeking a local property tax increase to cover the operating costs of the library. Without the funds, the city council maintained, the library would have to be closed.
Leo Burnett Worldwide stepped into the debate as a ringer, pretending to be a Tea Partyish outfit called Safeguarding American Families (SAFE) that planned a bonfire of library books should it succeed in getting the ballot measure defeated. They created a Facebook page and went around town putting up yard signs advertising a “Book Burning Party” to be held after the election. The response from the public was almost equal parts puzzlement and ire, but when the moment of truth came, voters turned out in droves and the measure passed.