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About these ads

What is different this time, however, is that the calls for conservation are more bottom-up: Many come from ordinary citizens, hoping that if they speak loudly enough, their leaders will listen. And their disparate voices seem to be tapping into a very real - and unmet - need for some Americans to be asked to do their part in the war on terrorism.

"People are sensing that there are threats to this country, and they want to respond with something beyond going shopping - which was what we were asked to do after Sept. 11," says iconoclast columnist Arianna Huffington.

Ms. Huffington should know. When she wrote a column last month for Salon, somewhat whimsically calling for an ad campaign linking energy waste to terrorism, more than 5,000 e-mails poured in. Many asked how they could support the ads, which Huffington suggested might follow the lines of this one, designed by "Got Milk?" adman Scott Burns.

Opening: Camera zooms in on a man at a gas pump.

"This is George," a kid's voice-over begins.

Camera shifts to pump: "This is the gas George buys for his car."

The ad follows the oil money's path - from gas station to oil company, from oil company to Saudi Arabia, and eventually to Al Qaeda and 9/11.It closes with a wide shot of bumper-to-bumper traffic: "The biggest weapon of mass destruction is parked in your driveway."

Huffington finished her column with a rhetorical question: "Anyone willing to pay for a people's ad campaign to jolt our leaders into reality?" And offers poured in. She says she heard from Republicans and Democrats, from students and businessmen, even from the unemployed. Wrote one reader: "If you're serious, although I'm just a working guy driving a truck, I'd gladly donate a thousand dollars to support the ad campaign you suggest."

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