The OK Campaign

Calgary Outlink, our community hub, has been in Calgary in one form or another since 1975.

{The Calgary Outlink AGM is tonight and open to the public!}

In the late 1990s, the organization was called GLCSA (the Gay and Lesbian Community Services Association). In 1998 they embarked on an awareness initiative called the OK Campaign, spearheaded by a resourceful volunteer and former board member, Brian Crawford. The campaign literature explained that it “was designed to promote personal reflection specific to gay and lesbian issues in the mainstream media.” In reality it was a not-so-subtle political statement and outreach tool.

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 4.01.45 PM

The campaign ended up targeting 98% of Calgarians through bus, billboard and poster ads throughout the city. The campaign ran in September of 1998 and 1999, and was the first of its kind and magnitude in a Canadian city. In 1998, the World Wide Web was still emerging as a communications force. The GLCSA crisis and information phone line was heavily used.  In that year the organization logged 3700 calls, and utilized over 10,000 volunteer hours.  Just over a third of the people who used the phone service were under 25.

GLCSA aggressively fundraised in advance of the OK Campaign: the campaign budget being $56,000. The community delivered: many pledging a regular monthly contribution in support of the initiative. One fundraising dinner netted $27,000. The local office of Pattison Outdoor Group were hired to coordinate ad placement, and like many other gay advertising initiatives before the OK Campaign ran into troubles.

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 4.01.10 PMSome local shopping malls protested having the text only ads in their facilities. Worried that the ads could offend shoppers, they demanded the ads pulled. Mortified Pattison Account Executives gave bonus advertising of $15,000 to the Campaign to compensate for mall owners who had insisted the ads be taken down. Eventually the GLCSA wrote critical letters to those mall owners but were restrained in lodging a formal human rights complaint by the “public education only” nature of the campaign.


4 responses to “The OK Campaign

  1. I supported this campaign. The cocktail parties were great. Which shopping centres were they?

    Rork >

  2. I still have my ‘OK’ t-shirt. I remember getting a few supportive comments when I wore it to work.

  3. Rork – I was on the GLCSA Board then myself and cannot remember which malls now, and cannot find it in the documentation – I will ask around…


  4. Pingback: The Of Colour Collective | Calgary Gay History

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