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Hollywood Pitches For UJC

Hollywood Pitches For UJC

A few Jews were hanging around Los Angeles’ City Hall, a can in their hands, asking for money the other day.
You’ll soon be able to see their appeal on TV.
Marlee Matlin, Jonathan Silverman and three other actors made their pitch as part of “Live Generously,” an advertising campaign coordinated by United Jewish Communities.
The campaign, which also includes print ads, features the first national TV commercials for UJC or its predecessor organization, the Council of Jewish Federations, in about 40 years. It was made available to local federations in time for the High Holy Days, but the commercials may run in various markets throughout the year, geared to coincide with annual fund-raising drives and the Super Sunday phone-a-thon.
“It’s an awareness campaign,” part of a “long-term” effort to educate largely unaffiliated members of the Jewish community about the federation “brand,” says UJC’s Fran Sommers, who with Gail Hyman served as executive producer of the spots.
For the 30-second commercials — targeted at 25-54-year olds — UJC approached young performers like Matlin, a TV and film star; Silverman, who appeared in the film “Weekend at Bernie’s”; Joshua Malina of “The West Wing”; and Kevin Weisman and Greg Grunberg of “Alias.”
All donated their time. The Kaplan Thaler Group, the ad agency that made the notable AFLAC commercials with the talking duck, produced the “Live Generously” spots “under cost,” says Erica Barton, an UJC spokesman, declining to state specific costs.
The commercials’ subtext is “give generously,” but the text on-screen is subtle — words like “shelter,” “dignity” and “hope.” No klezmer music, no images of the Holocaust or needy Israelis that usually play a prominent role in Jewish appeals for money.
Viewers “should feel inspired to learn more” about the Jewish community, Sommers says.
The ads direct viewers to their local federation or Web site. The first federations to sign on are in L.A., central New Jersey, Palm Beach, Fla., and the North Shore of Massachusetts. New York’s UJA-Federation hasn’t indicated when it will air the ads, Sommers says.
The actors donated more than their time, Barton says. “During the shoots,” when the performers held a silver pushke in their hands, “each one of the celebrities put a coin in.”

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