Reverse Psychology Ads Save Library By Proposing Book Burning Party

Reverse Psychology Ads Save Library By Proposing Book Burning Party

The Troy Public Library was set to close if taxpayers didn't approve a 0.7% tax increase; agency Leo Burnett created a mystery political group to incite voters to action with a fake book destruction campaign.

Allie Walker
  • 26 june 2012

In February 2010, the city of Troy, Michigan was forced to make personnel and city services cuts due to a struggling economy and a 20% loss in city revenue due to the drop in property values. The public library was among the city services that would get cut if a tax increase for additional operating funds didn’t pass.

The tax increase didn’t pass in February 2010- there was no organized group defending the library, and a highly-organized anti-tax group, Troy Citizens United rallied against the proposed tax increase. The city then proposed a library-only tax increase in the fall of 2010- the Troy Library would need a minuscule 0.7% tax increase to continue to operate.

Troy Citizens United campaigned again against the tax increase, and again, the tax increase didn’t pass. The library was scheduled to close in the spring of 2011, but supporters of the library rallied to try one last time to pass the tax increase. It was June 2011, and in the face of two losses, a scheduled vote on August 2, and the library set to close on August 5th, the Troy Library needed something drastic to keep it alive.

Leo Burnett Detroit decided to try and help (anonymously) save the Troy Library; with only a budget of $3,500 and six weeks to turn around the anti-tax sentiment in the city, they faced an uphill battle. The agency campaigned to save the library by pretending to want to destroy the books in the library; agency staff posed as a fake political group, Safeguarding American Families (SAFe) and distributed yard signs around the city of Troy with the message ‘Vote To Close Troy Library On Aug.2- Book Burning Party On Aug.5.’ People were so enraged by the idea of a book burning party that they went in droves to the page to tell SAFe that they were ‘sick’ and ‘disgusting’ and to vote YES to saving the Troy Library.

The campaign relied heavily on the power of social media, posting rage inciting videos of burning books on Facebook and Twitter, creating ‘check-ins’ to the Book Burning Party, and even posting announcements about the band for the party and who to contact for a babysitter for the big day. The group created merchandise, posted ads for a clown and ice cream vendor for the party, and even created Facebook polls about which books to save from the burning.

The campaign was so audacious, local, national, and international news organization and TV stations devoted coverage to the Book Burning Party campaign, all while solidifying the citizens of Troy in favor of saving the library– and to passing the tax-increase.

Finally, on July 11th, Leo Burnett dropped the hoax and revealed the true meaning of the campaign- ‘A Vote Against The Library Is Like A Vote To Burn Books.’ And on August 2nd, voters came out in unprecedented levels- 324% more voters than expected came to the polls, with the overwhelming majority voting ‘yes’ to the tax-increase.

Leo Burnett was able to change the conversation around the vote from taxes to the importance of a town library, framing the vote in such a powerful way city members couldn’t help but realize the magnitude of what they’d have to give up if the tax increase failed.

Watch a video of the campaign below:

Troy Library


Fitness Advocate: Paving The Future of Workouts With Audio

Fitness & Sport
Brand Development Yesterday

Swipe Left On A Dating World Built To Keep You Single And Disconnected

Hinge's VP of Marketing Karen Fein tells us about the service's daring ditch of the swiping culture that's designed to attract advertising revenue, not meaningful connections

Arts & Culture Yesterday

Marvel Comic Tells The Story Of A Heroic Syrian Mother

Madaya Mom is the true tale of a family trapped inside a town for over a year


Get PSFK's Related Report: Future of Automotive

See All
Retail Yesterday

Brooklyn Cafe Lets Customers Pay By The Hour, Not By The Cup

Glasshour is an establishment that provides free coffee and pastries and charges for the time guests spend there

Technology Yesterday

Electric Spoon Changes The Way Food Tastes

The Taste Buddy is being developed to manipulate your taste buds and make everything more delicious

Related Expert

Aidan Tracey

Experimental Marketing

Travel Yesterday

Bike Path In Poland Can Glow For 20 Years Using Solar Power

Cyclists can follow the shimmering blue lanes for better safety each time they ride

Technology Yesterday

Open-Source Toolkit Lets Communities Build Their Own Street Furniture

The Wikiblock database contains 30 blueprints of different neighborhood fixtures including benches, bus stops, and kiosks

Food Yesterday

Tiny Pub Only Has Space For Three People

Make Time For It is a small London pop-up bar that encourages conversation without the distraction of technology


Future Of Automotive
Scenarios Driving The Digital Transformation Of An Industry

PSFK Op-Ed Yesterday

Community Builder: How to Hack Slack

Claire Wasserman, Founder of Ladies Get Paid, describes how she's using an internal team communication tool to build a network of thousands

PSFK Labs october 21, 2016

PSFK Picks: Top 5 Performance-Enhancing Wearables

Our new report looks at innovations pioneering the future of performance through intelligent activewear and predictive analytics

Advertising Yesterday

This Beer Was Brewed Just For Scotch Drinkers

Highland Park Scotch Whisky & Sixpoint Brewery have teamed up to create two limited-edition pairings for New York City boilermakers

Mobile Yesterday

Let An AI Librarian Help Sort Your Digital Bookmarks

A new app uses machine learning to help organize your virtual life

Mobile Yesterday

Pizza Hut Tattoo Lets You Place An Order From Your Body

The latest gimmick from the fast-food chain is a tattoo-like sticker that lets customers get delivery with a simple tap on their arm

Travel Yesterday

Reinvented Bicycle Inspired By Supercar Design

The yellow bike based on a Lamborghini has sharp edges and an aluminum alloy frame

Health Yesterday

Health Platform Gives Perspective On Your Weekly Habits

Gyroscope is a new wellness app that works by amalgamating data about your life into beautifully designed visuals

Beauty Yesterday

Korean Beauty Brand Uses VR To Let Customers Pick Their Ingredients

Innisfree created a unique experience for its Shanghai Disneyland customers with a virtual reality trip to select what goes into their purchase

Arts & Culture Yesterday

3D-Printed Creations Resemble Floating Paper Outlines

Japanese design firm Nendo's exhibition features works that look like sheets of material being folded, torn, and crumpled

Technology october 21, 2016

Concept Camera Designed To Only Take Unique Photos

Camera Restricta is tool that prompts photographers to only capture one-of-a-kind images

No search results found.