The Story Behind the 'Taiwan Can Help' Ad on New York Times

The Story Behind the 'Taiwan Can Help' Ad on New York Times
Photo Credit: CNA
What you need to know

On Tuesday, the New York Times ran an ad funded by a grassroots campaign to highlight Taiwan's success in the Covid-19 pandemic despite exclusion from the WHO. Here's the background on how this came about.

By Nicholas Haggerty and Daphne K. Lee

A crowdfunded campaign placed a full-page advertisement in the New York Times on Tuesday, April 14, to promote Taiwan as an ally in fighting against the Covid-19 pandemic.

The ad’s headline asks “WHO can help?” in a blue color resembling the logo of the World Health Organization. The answer, “Taiwan,” stands alone in the upper right-hand corner below the fold.

A brief statement at the bottom of the ad reads “In a time of isolation, we choose solidarity.”

The campaign, initiated as a response to Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’s recent allegations of racist attacks from Taiwan, raised around NT$10 million (US$330,000) from over 26,000 contributors. This media campaign was a collaborative effort between Watchout co-founder Zuyi Lin, YouTuber Ray Du, graphic designer Aaron Nieh, among others.

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Photo Credit: Aaron Nieh / Facebook

Raising money was not an obstacle, but the publication was stalled by differing views on the text of the ad. Du, who hosts an English education YouTube channel, wrote a long open letter addressed to Dr. Tedros as a first draft for the ad.

However, contributors raised their concerns about the length of the letter and the pettiness of centering the campaign around the trending hashtag #ThisAttackComesFromTaiwan. Comments on the fundraising page said negative phrases like “attack” and pointing fingers at Dr. Tedros would be inappropriate during a catastrophe.

“We only wanted to respond to Dr. Tedros’s false accusations when we released our first draft of the public letter, but as everyone could see a few days ago, we had a lot to improve upon,” Du wrote in an online forum today reflecting on the publication process.

The organizers eventually rewrote the draft to reflect what Taiwan has always promoted, using “Taiwan can help” to signal empathy for victims of the crisis.

“In the end, we realized we don’t have to play tit for tat with Tedros. We should rise above it and just reiterate #TaiwanCanHelp properly,” Du wrote.

Several fundraisers in this ad campaign were also involved in a media ad campaign titled “Democracy at 4 am” during Taiwan’s 2014 Sunflower Movement. The aesthetics of the Sunflower ad echo with the “Taiwan Can Help” ad as Nieh was the graphic designer for both campaigns. A website detailing the timeline and the coverage of the movement was created as an extension of the ad.

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Screenshot from Democracy at 4 am

In the latest “Taiwan Can Help” campaign, the organizers launched a website in a similar format. It features a timeline of the Covid-19 pandemic as well as media coverage of what Taiwan has contributed to the international community.

Organizers used the fundraising platform Zec Zec, the Kickstarter equivalent in Taiwan, to propose the ad campaign. They had asked for NT$4 million (US$130,000) to cover the cost of a full-page ad in the New York Times, but the funding far exceeded the goal.

After taking a poll of campaign donors on how to spend remaining funds, the organizers plan to use them for a “Taiwan can help” digital ad campaign and medical aid donations.

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