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- New York City Mayor Eric Adams and the private marketing firms involved in the ad campaign to denounce Florida’s HB 1557 told PolitiFact that the city did not spend tax dollars on developing the creative content for the effort or securing the billboard space.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams approached a lectern flanked by signage that bore the word "Gay," and addressed the state of Florida.
It was Monday, April 4, and standing alongside the 61-year-old mayor were 10 adults, one of whom wore a rainbow-colored face mask.
"This is the city of Stonewall," Adams said, invoking the historic 1969 gay rights demonstrations that followed a police raid at the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City. "This is the city where we are proud to talk about how you can live in a comfortable setting and not be harassed, not be abused — not only as adults but also as young people."
At the City Hall event, Adams chastised Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for signing into law HB 1557, dubbed the "don’t say gay" bill by critics. The legislation prohibits classroom instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade.
Then the mayor announced an ad campaign to address the issue.
For eight weeks — starting April 4 — five pieces of creative art condemning the law will be displayed on billboards across major cities in Florida. The ad campaign was spotted on a billboard in Jacksonville, Florida, following the announcement.
The move drew national media coverage and seemed to touch a nerve with DeSantis.
"Now, New York is doing billboards telling people come, come to New York from Florida," DeSantis said at a press conference on April 5. "You know, they're wasting taxpayer money on doing that. I don't know why they would do it."
DeSantis’ claim sounded at odds with what Adams said when he announced the ad campaign, so we looked into it.
Adams said at the event that the campaign is "costing New York City taxpayers nothing."
The artwork that will be displayed on the billboards is being created by a multinational marketing company, WPP, and its subsidiaries, VMLY&R and Kinetic, among others, that won’t charge New York City for that effort. Kinetic is paying for the costs associated with putting up the billboards.
Graham Smith, the managing director of VMLY&R and the company’s lead on the effort, confirmed to PolitiFact that the creative content was donated.
The head of public affairs at WPP North America, Brian Ellner, also confirmed his firm is donating creative work and is securing donated media. Adams, Ellner said, "pledged that no tax dollars would be used to support" the ad campaign.
DeSantis did not return PolitiFact’s request for comment. We found no news reports or credible evidence to suggest that the city paid for the ad campaign.
DeSantis said that New York City is "wasting taxpayer money on" placing billboards in Florida.
Adams and the private marketing firms involved in the ad campaign have denied this characterization. WPP developed the creative content used in the campaign on a pro bono basis, and the billboard space was secured through one of its agencies.
We found no evidence to support that the city contributed financially to the campaign. DeSantis did not provide any material to support his assertion. We rate this claim False.
Email interview with Ivette Davila-Richards, Adams’ spokesperson, April 7, 2022
NYC Mayor’s Office, New campaign of digital billboards in five Florida markets denouncing 'Don't Say Gay' law and inviting Floridians to move to New York, April 4, 2022
NYC Mayor’s Office, Mayor Adams makes an announcement with LGBTQ+ advocates, April 4, 2022
Bryan Griffin, tweet, April 5, 2022
PolitiFact, ‘Don’t say gay’ vs. ‘parental rights': Fact-checking claims about Florida’s HB 1557, March 23, 2022
CNN, New York City launches ad campaign denouncing Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law, April 5, 2022
Tampa Bay Times, New York City ad campaign makes appeal to Floridians who oppose ‘don’t say gay’ bill, April 4, 2022
Email interview with Graham Smith, the managing director of VMLY&R, April 7, 2022
Email interview with Brian Ellner, head of public Affairs at WPP North America, April 7, 2022
Email interview with Christina Pushaw, DeSantis’ press secretary, April 8, 2022
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