"Understandably, the winner is 'Braces and Glasses.'"
With that short announcement at the Community Service and PSA Awards Dinner of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in New York City Aug. 30, the Church entered a category rare to the entertainment field - that of winning back-to-back Emmys.This year's public service announcement Emmy-winner, in the Homefront Junior series, is a poignant vignette of a girl going to school with braces on her teeth for the first time, and a boy who tries to get through orchestra practice without wearing his glasses. The message concludes, "It's not who you aren't - it's who you are, and being yourself is being great."
Last year, the Church's Emmy-award winner was "The Practice, which portayed a boy learning to pitch baseball and a girl learning to play the piono. Despite criticism, each learned to succeed through practice. "When everything says you can't, believe in the part of you that says you can," is the tagline.
The 30- or 60-second Homefront and Homefront Junior spots that tug at the heartstrings or draw a tear to the eye are sponsored by the church's Missionary Department and produced by Bonneville Media Communications. The spots are not designed to proselyte, but are "truly a public service effort. We want people to recognize what we stand for," aid Elder Robert L. Backman of the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy and executive director of the Missionary Department.
"We think there is a remarkable effect on those who see them. Many people have responded, and we are very pleased with the results.
The response of the public was very evident to Stephen B. Allen of the Missionary Department as he brought the trophy home from the banquet.
"The Emmy doesn't fit in a suitcase," he explained. "Carrying it out of the banquet room, back to the hotel and on the plane - it didn't go unnoticed. We heard whispers and 'oohs' everywhere we went. It was surprising how many people recognized the Emmy."
Many people asked him how the award was won; and virtually all of them knew of the spots, and that the church was the sponsor. "Oh, those are the commercials that make me cry," and "Those are the best commercials on television," were some of the comments he heard.
"We know our messages are getting out," he said.
Gary J. Dixon, vice president of creative services of Bonneville Media Communications, said the Church's public service announcements are sent to some 14,000 television and radio stations throughout the world.
He emphasized that the announcements are part of a clearly seen goal to help strengthen families and individuals. Rather than just warning against symptoms of society's ills, they hope to strike at the root of the problems, offering a positive message of hope. The messages, based on church teachings, are intended to be universally appealing.
"We feel that at the root of some of these symptomatic problems is a lack of self-esteem and a lack of communication in the familyu," said Dixon. "We present something that will boost the child's self-esteem right wehre he's living."
Adults, he said relate to the spots as well as children do.
As a result of the care and quality that goes into each spot, television stations air them at prime time.
Juan M. Gonzalez, who distributes the spots to 85 percent of the television stations in the United States and Canada, sid nearly 64 percent of the television audience in these countries saw "Braces and Glasses," and they saw it more than twice. It was aired on all three major networks to an estimated audience of 147 million viewers.
He's received letters that the spots have helped many families and individuals, In one case, a teen contemplating suicide changed his mind after seeing a "Bounce Back" Homefront series spot.
The creator and producer of both Emmy award winniners is James Gartner, a quiet, behind-the-scenes writer. He's achieved considerable success with more than 150 awards to his credit, and is sought after in commercial advertixing. Yet he finds a deeper reward in "being able to expose values we all have about the importance of children and the importance of the family. Nothing is more satisfying than doing these thing.
"When you are a child, things are bigger than life. I try to find those moments and remind people of them." he said. "We try to create the kind of images that you look at, and they could be in 1948 or 1988, so the appeal is not dated."
Also contributing to the Emmy-award-winning spot were Grant Baird, producer; Leo Koetke, musician; Roger Crandall, art director; and Reed Smoot, cinematographer. Mike McLean of Bonneville created two Homefront spots that were among the seven finalists for this year's Emmy.
Richard Alsop, president of Bonneville Media Communications, was instrumental in developing the Homefront series since it began in 1972.
The Homefront series started with a night-time message to parents. The message said simply, "It's 10 o'clock. Parents do you know where your children are?"
The next spot hinted at the light, multi-perspective nature of the series by varying the first: "It's 10 o'clock. Children, do you know where your parents are?"
After those spots, another 29 followed that have reinforced family values, encouraged more caring among friends, and made people laugh or cry, and sometimes, laugh and cry.
The Homfront Junior series began in 1980 following a suggestion by network executive who "could see such a need for that kind of programming to be aired between zany cartoons and cereal commercials."
So when the second Emmhy in two years was announced Aug. 30, most in the audience agreed with the announcer: "Understandably, the winner is 'Braces and Glasses.'"