When the inevitable conversation about returning to the office reached Anchor Worldwide Chief Creative Officer Aaron Sedlak noticed one of the members on his team showed hesitation.

The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in various devastating consequences, including the spike in hate crimes against Asian American Pacific Islanders in New York. During the course of the pandemic, hate crimes against the AAPI community rose by 300%.

“This coworker was with his parents in Queens, and all his friends and family were afraid to go out on the city streets because of all these anti-Asian attacks that were happening,” Sedlak said. “That started this thought of, ‘Why don’t we do something?’ We have a lot of Asian American Pacific Islander staff in our creative department — why don’t we actually take our particular set of skills that we use for our clients and do it for a cause we all care about?”

To that end, Anchor Worldwide launched the “Cure for Racism: AAPI Formula,” a guerilla marketing campaign that’s distributing fake pillboxes throughout pharmacies in New York City to raise awareness about the issue. Sedlak compared the upstart campaign to the works of Banksy, the anonymous street artist. 

A label on the pillboxes reads: “There is no recommended dosage of anti-racism treatment. Only learning and understanding can help. If you are experiencing racist thoughts or behavior and feel increasingly violent towards others, just stay home and rest. Forever. No one wants racists out on the city streets. We all belong here.”

The pillboxes also urge people to check out StopAAPIhate.org, a nonprofit that aims to educate, raise awareness and report hate crime incidents.

Making the campaign a guerilla operation was a necessity, Sedlak said, as Anchor Worldwide didn’t have a sizable media budget and knew it “wanted to connect with people in a way that felt visceral and real.”

However, the team also saw the value in centering the campaign on a physical, tangible item.

“Having that context of different products on shelves — we’re using medicine in so many different ways to help,” Sedlak added. “It was like, ‘How can we phrase a social movement as a medicinal cure?’ It’s more surprising and less on-the-nose as your typical nonprofit pieces, which I think get washed out in the white noise of the media.”

Ultimately, the long-term goal of Cure for Racism is to raise awareness and get more people involved in the fight against AAPI racism. In the short-term, Anchor Worldwide seeks to foster a conversation both in the real world and on social media.

“We are joining into an existing movement rather than trying to create one, so this is us doing our part for a cause we believe in,” Sedlak said.