Legate Brian Follett has mounted a fight for mothers and their babies using the media . . .
Sometimes the right pro-life ad really can make all the difference.
Heroic Media founder Brian Follett has seen it happen time and again. His pro-life media company targets geographical markets with a multimedia approach: billboard, TV and Internet ads. The result is, invariably, that the number of women contacting pregnancy help centers skyrockets.
Heroic Media has made a name for itself for both the quality and quantity of its ads. When the company ran a media campaign in Ohio two years ago, they saw the numbers of abortions plummet with 3,000 fewer abortions in the state that year.
A member of Legatus’ Orange County Chapter, Follett spent the majority of his professional life running Anchor Foods, which his family sold in 2001. The break from leading a large company led Follett to ponder ways he could “give back.”
“I went on a spiritual retreat and began to think about a construction boycott that I had taken part in against a huge Planned Parenthood facility being built in Austin, Texas,” he said. “I realized then that pro-life media wasn’t being done in Austin.”
Follett, who has a marketing background, slowly discerned God calling him to pro-life media. He founded Majella Cares in 2004. For four years, the organization focused on Texas, spending $2 million on ads — including 7,000 TV commercials and 128 billboards, in addition to Internet ads and radio spots. Abortions dropped 20% in Austin.
After changing the company’s name to Heroic Media, Follett decided to go national in 2008. In the last three years, Heroic has conducted 10 nationwide media campaigns and more than 160 campaigns in 32 states. Heroic is running 24 regional campaigns this fall.
“As a non-profit, we run on a faith-based process,” Follett explained. “We gather as a team every morning at 8 am and pray. The number one thing for us is to place our trust in God.”
Heroic Media has a three-fold mission: “Call for Help” ads connecting women to pregnancy help centers, “Attitude Change” ads getting women to rethink abortion, and ads promoting adoption. When Heroic conducts a campaign in a specific region, the first thing it does is partner with local pro-life groups.
“We are all about partners,” said Rev. Joe Young, an evangelical pastor who serves as Heroic’s executive director. “No one group can do it all. It’s biblical for us to work together. When we team our resources, we can do exponential work in any area.”
When Heroic partners with a pregnancy help center, it does client marketing plus promotional TV, Internet, billboard, and mass transit ads for the center.
Heroic’s marketing staff travels the country, conducting market research and focus groups. “Before and after any media campaign, they get very serious statistical numbers,” said Alejandro Bermudez, a Heroic Media board member and president of Catholic News Agency.
For example, Heroic Media conducted a campaign in Pittsburgh from Dec. 1, 2012, to June 23, 2013. The campaign generated 6,849 responses. People responded by web visits, emails, phone calls and direct contacts. Heroic created Google ads, TV ads, transit ads and posters. They discovered that their Google ads produced 73% of all responses.
Young tracks the national response to Heroic’s campaigns, noting that each market responds in a unique way.
“Last year, over 178,000 women responded to our media ads,” he said. “They connected with us through our 24/7 helpline, Option Line. It’s humbling when you think that we are only a staff of 10 people,” Young said.
When Heroic staff began to research the issue of adoption, they discovered that the concept frightened many women.
“Our effectiveness is measured by how these ads speak to target audiences,” Follett explained. “Everything we do is researched. We did a focus group and found that historically, the marketing of adoption scared women into having abortions. But then we discovered that if the ads had language that said, ‘I can choose who will raise my child,’ the attitude towards adoption changed for the better.”
“Our partnership with Heroic has been 100% positive,” said Marc Andreas, vice president of marketing for Bethany Christian Services. “They did the leg work through national TV ad campaigns, and we’ve shared our adoption expertise.”
Andreas recalls the first night they aired a commercial on the Oxygen cable channel last November.
“A woman in Jacksonville, Fla., had four children and was due in a few days with her fifth child. She didn’t have a good family situation and was planning to leave the baby at the hospital,” Andreas said. “When she saw the commercial, her 11-year old son said, ‘You should call that number.’”
The woman called and within two hours someone from Bethany met with her to discuss adoption. They found a pastor in Orlando trying to adopt and facilitated the adoption. Today, the woman is in touch with the pastor’s family because it was an open adoption.
“We have gotten hundreds of phone calls from airing those ads,” Andreas said. “We’ve been able to help so many women dealing with an unplanned pregnancy who had never considered adoption. It’s enabled us to walk them through.”
Follett’s family has long been connected with Legatus — especially in Green Bay where his brother Mark is a member of the Northeast Wisconsin Chapter.
“Legatus has been an inspiration in so many ways because the work we do is so hard,” Brian Follett said. “It is really helpful when we come together with Legatus members to share our struggles. They have been very supportive.”
While Legatus has helped him keep his passion alive for helping women in crisis pregnancies, Follett says it is stoked from years of cultivating his faith in Jesus Christ and His Church.
“A lot of my passion comes from a trip I took to Medjugorje in 1991,” he explained. “My dad had gone there in 1990 and came back crying whenever he spoke about it. Before that trip, I had only been a Sunday-Mass kind of Catholic, but my heart wasn’t into it. Now, I’m still waiting for my head to catch up.”
That passion has also inspired Follett to take Heroic Media international. In 2011, the company opened operations in Ecuador, Colombia, Chile, Costa Rica, Peru and Mexico as Opciones Heróicas. In Costa Rica, Heroic runs a pregnancy help center. In Ecuador, Heroic is cohosting an international pro-life Congress which uses a “tunnel of love” van, allowing students and adults to walk through and look at interactive videos about fetal development.
“Abortion is still not legal in the majority of Latin American countries,” Bermudez explained. “However, this is exactly why pregnancy help centers are needed. Without them, people will say that women really have no options.”
Giving women and their babies life-affirming options is what Heroic Media is all about, he said, and their ads are quietly making a difference in hundreds of lives every day.
SABRINA ARENA FERRISI is Legatus magazine’s senior staff writer.