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02.26.15

Getting the public's attention: creative public health campaigns

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This month, soccer player Zlatan Ibrahimović, striker for Paris-Saint-Germain and captain of the Swedish national team, joined the latest campaign for the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). The campaign, 805 Million Names, is built around the 50 names symbolically representative of the 805 million people suffering from hunger around the world today and the 80 million people currently assisted by WFP in crises in countries such as Syria, South Sudan and Ebola-affected countries. On February 14, Ibrahimović played in a match with those 50 names temporarily tattooed on his body to highlight hunger and what WFP is doing about it.

Videos and campaigns such as this one can be used to promote awareness for current health issues that people may not be aware of. In this era of social media, these campaigns can play an even more powerful tool than before through the powerful content and strong social sharing integration. All too often, public service campaigns are dry, boring, and at their very worst, embarrassing, leading to very few changes in their mission and objectives. The following is a list of some of the most original (and successful) public health campaigns launched around the world in the last years.

 

  1. Blood Art-ery

This campaign, launched by NHS Blood and Transplant in the UK, was launched as an appeal to blood donors to help boost stocks to 30% above usual levels by the start of the Olympic Games in July 2012. To launch the campaign, blood donors from each of the four main blood groups appeared in London, painted with blood vessel and blood group ‘body art–ery’ to raise awareness of the need for donors of all blood types to act now. The launch saw the ‘body art–ery’ painted donors visiting various locations to capture public attention and direct people to make an appointment online or by phone. Recipients of life–saving blood transfusions also appeared with the donors to simulate the transfer of the life giving blood from one arm to another. The video generated 264 pieces of mainstream coverage, involving all of the main TV news channels, and prompted an immediate public response. In a single day, 30,000 people visited blood.co.uk and calls from potential donors increased by 29%.

 

  1. 1 in 3 Women

Sanitation is one of the most difficult issues to campaign on. It’s hard to get people talking about toilets. Yet, on November 18, 2012, World Toilet Day, WaterAid launched the campaign 1 in 3 Women to raise awareness for the lack of safe toilets and clean water for the world’s poorest people. The campaign focused on the startling statistic that 1 in 3 women worldwide risk shame, disease, harassment and even attack because they have nowhere safe to go to the toilet. WaterAid created a powerful short video to show the story of one woman’s journey to find somewhere safe to go to the toilet. It showed the risks she was exposed to, ranging from unhygienic conditions, the shame of being watched and even the fear of being attack when in a vulnerable and isolated location. The video takes place in a developed nation, challenging viewers to imagine what it would be like if they didn’t have access to the toilet. They hoped therefore that supporters would sign a simple pledge calling for action and share the message that sanitation could make 1.25 billion women’s lives safer and healthier. The campaign had huge social media success, with over 900,000 individuals “reached” with posts about the campaign on Facebook and over 400k views on Twitter.

 

  1. R UV UGLY?

R UV UGLY? was a campaign launched by Cancer Research UK to stop teenagers using sunbeds. The R UV UGLY? touring photo booth dispensed UV images that revealed the damage beneath, invisible to the naked eye. Coupled with a news story that saw the UK’s leading modeling agencies agree a zero tolerance policy towards sunbed usage, the campaign aimed to target what motivated use of sunbeds—a mix of vanity and insecurity. Follow-up data, measured eight weeks after the initial campaign ended, showed 46% of respondents reporting that they had stopped using sunbeds, or were using them less. R UV UGLY? was so successful that the Department of Health has chosen to continue with it, and Cancer Research UK is looking into adapting it to include sunbathers in general, with a similar version to be implemented in Scotland as well. The campaign did incredibly well on social media as well with over 2 million twitter impressions, 75 pieces of broadcast coverage and 533 online pieces.

 

  1. Kenya Bucket List

Clean-water organization WATERisLIFE reached great success with their #FirstWorldProblems campaign in 2012, which played on the popular hashtag by having poverty-stricken Haitians read aloud tweets. For their follow-up, they set their sights on another country with clean-water problems –Kenya where children have a one in five chance of dying before age 5 partly due to the unsafe drinking water. Kenya Bucket List focuses on a 4-year old Massai boy who has never been outside his village. With the help of the Water Is Life team, Nkaitole is taken on a journey to fulfil his bucket list—playing soccer in the national stadium, flying in an airplane, seeing the ocean for the first time. The nonprofit used the film to raise awareness and funds and asked supporters to share the video with the hashtag #5YearsToLive on Twitter.

 

  1. The Ball

In July 2008, Pangea Day, an international, multimedia live broadcast event dedicated to bridging the political, social, and cultural differences that divide us was launched. This campaign asked for short films that were then screened by a panel. They received thousands of submissions talking about many world problems in an internet extravaganza. This film, The Ball is directed by Orlando Mesquita of Mozambique. With the international language of sport, the video talks about another side of HIV/AIDS politics and global resource awareness.

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