ROCHESTER, N.Y. — People who’ve driven through Rochester during the month of February have likely noticed some of the billboards with some strong messages against antisemitism.

What You Need To Know

  • Billboards raising awareness of antisemitism in Rochester
  • Marketing experts say it’s ‘cause marketing’ – rather than selling a product, the awareness is an outcome of cause marketing and social good or social awareness
  • It’s feasible we could be seeing more social messaging of this type

“Can a billboard end antisemitism? No. But you’re not a billboard.” is one of the messages drivers see glancing up from behind the wheel. It’s not quite your typical billboard.

It’s created by nonprofit in response to an increase in antisemitism particularly in Rochester and New York state.

“So it’s really important that that’s where the billboards are and that people see them because it gets the conversation going,” Co-Founder of JewBelong.Org, Archie Gottesman.

She says the increase in antisemitism is recognized significantly more since the Hamas attack on Israel on Oct. 7, 2023. “So what JewBelong is doing is we are raising the awareness by putting up billboards that do just that.”

“We call it social good, right,” said Clinical Assistant Professor of Marketing at Nazareth University Bryan Adams, who adds the effort is called “cause marketing.” “So in this case, the awareness is one of the major outcomes of cause marketing and social good or social awareness.”

While the messaging on the billboard may not be selling a product or service, it serves a purpose with its message.

“Cause marketing is one of the most prolific types of content marketing now because the generations that are coming up now really want to believe in what they’re doing, and they want to have a belief system reinforced,” said Adams. “So when they see things going on in the world that they really don’t believe with or they really feel strong about, this type of messaging really helps push them in the direction of taking that cause and doing something active with it.”

“Sometimes people say, ‘Archie, why billboards? Like they’re so short and they’re not really educating people.’ But that’s OK. Billboards have a really good purpose in our world because right now we live in a world where everything is siloed,” said Gottesman. “What happens with billboards is they break through those news silos ... So most people sometimes see billboards and that’s why it’s so important that they are out there, because they really are breaking through the information that I’m only receiving on my Instagram feed. And a lot of people really do only get their information from Instagram or TikTok or social media, so it’s important to be out there with the billboards.” 

“The generation that’s coming up right now, they’re, from what I’ve been able to see in my research, they’re becoming increasingly interested in the offline marketing approach because they actually don’t want to hear the noise of the interactions and the noise of the two sides competing with each other,” said Adams.

So, it’s feasible we could be seeing more social messaging of this type coming to a billboard near you.