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FDA targets teens with unique anti-smoking campaign February 6, 2014

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The Food and Drug Administration has been trying to figure out, for perhaps decades now, how to convince teens not to smoke. It may finally have an answer: concentrate on the short-term harms of cigarettes. In a new $115 million campaign, the organization is running several ads focusing on how smoking affects kids’ appearances. You know, ruining skin and damaging smiles. Costing a fortune. Making you smell. The ads are graphic, and by most accounts extremely effective. What experts are noting about the campaign is that it uses big tobacco’s most effective strategies against itself. Think smoking will make you friends and make you look cool? Think again.

For more on this campaign, see the following videos:

Discussion Questions:

1.  Why are so many kids drawn to smoking? How does the FDA’s campaign attempt to address those reasons?

2.  Is the campaign too graphic? Will it work? How would we know?

3.  What is the difference between anti-smoking ads targeting short-term versus long-term effects of smoking? Why is the FDA changing its strategy in this campaign?

Keeping up the fight: Coke’s new “Grandfather” ad ties product to good health (sort of) August 24, 2013

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Coca Cola has a new ad out called “Grandfather” which presents the average day in the life of two men – one from decades ago, and the other from modern times. With the split screen rolling, viewers see the life of a 1950’s man as healthier, slower, and more social, while the modern man is constantly rushing and stuffing his face. When the two men come together at the end, revealed to be grandfather and grandson, the premise is obvious: soda can be healthy if one lives a healthy life (just like grandpa).

The ad is a part of a larger campaign to defend Coca Cola’s products against government regulation and consumer backlash targeting food products linked to obesity. With sugary sodas linked especially to diabetes, Coke is trying to protect its image by blaming people rather than products. Nostalgia clearly helps in this battle.

See the ad yourself in the video below:

Discussion Questions:

1.  How has Coke’s image been hurt by growing concerns about obesity?

2.  What is Coke’s basic argument in this ad? Do you agree with it? Is it reasonable?

Teen pregnancy prevention campaign shocks with images of “expecting’ boys June 26, 2013

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The Chicago Department of Public Health wanted to do something drastic to force parents to talk with their children about sex, while simultaneously spreading the message that sexual responsibility should be shared by girls and boys alike. The campaign they designed succeeded in shocking audiences. Several of the organization’s ads featured shirtless pregnant boys with giant stomachs. The tagline for each ad was “Unexpected? Most teen pregnancies are.”

The ads have been praised for their effectiveness. According to Chicago Health Commissioner Dr. Bechara Choucair, ““We wanted this campaign, those images, to spark conversation, and that’s exactly what we’re getting.” The co-hosts of the view agreed. Sherri Shepherd stated, “I think it’s a tough sell to get young men to realize that just because you’re not pregnant for nine months, it still affects you.” Elisabeth Hasselbeck added, “It’s a smart campaign. It makes you stop in your tracks.”

To see some of the ads yourself, watch the following videos:

Discussion Questions:

1.  Why do some advertisements seek to shock audiences?

2.  What are the drawbacks to this “shocking” strategy?

3.  How do we know PR campaigns work? How has the Chicago Department of Public Health justified similar campaigns from the past?

Too far? Anti-smoking campaign declares that some people “deserve to die” July 8, 2012

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The Lung Cancer Alliance launched teaser ads for its new campaign in June 2012. Online messages, posters, and billboards contained messages like “Hipsters Deserve to Die” and “Cat Lovers Deserve to Die.” The campaign irritated many people, as some tore down the ads and complained that they were insensitive. While the ads confused people, especially since the campaign was really about “No One Deserves to Die,” the teaser succeeded in raising the group’s profile.

So, what was this all about? After making their website and campaign more public, the Lung Cancer Alliance revealed that they are trying to tackle the stigma that people get lung cancer because they smoke. Because lung cancer is inaccurately associated with self-destructive behavior, the LCA reports, research on the disease receives far less funding. The effort, then, is attempting to help shed that harmful stereotype by shocking people into self-reflection.

For more on the Lung Cancer Alliance’s campaign, see the following video:

Discussion Questions:

1.  Was the confusion about the Lung Cancer Alliance’s campaign proof that it was not successful?

2.  Would the campaign have been better without the teaser? Why, or why not?

3.  What does this case study reveal about the shortcomings of confrontation as a strategy in public relations?

Merck steps up to defend Gardasil following vaccine bashing in Republican debates September 21, 2011

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Republican presidential candidates Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Sen. Rick Santorum used a debate in September 2011 to target Texas Gov. Rick Perry for his 2007 executive order requiring all schoolgirls in his state to be vaccinated against HPV. The Gardasil vaccine was said not only to be an abuse of executive power, according to Bachmann, but also dangerous since some parents were reporting that it made their children mentally retarded. Bachmann’s claims about the side effects of the vaccine, though, appeared to be entirely made up. The Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had both okayed the drug.

Regardless of Bachmann’s exaggerated criticism, Gardasil maker Merck found it necessary to release a statement to address the public fear over the vaccine. In a press release, Merck stated:

“The facts about GARDASIL are clear. The efficacy and safety of GARDASIL was established in clinical trials in thousands of patients. Since its approval in 2006, the vaccine has been given to millions of girls around the world. Merck remains strongly committed to preventing cervical cancer.

Leading national and international health organizations actively monitor and evaluate the HPV vaccine, and they continue to recommend its use. Just last month, the Institute of Medicine reaffirmed the safety of a number of vaccines, including HPV vaccines, and concluded, “Despite much media attention and strong opinions from many quarters, vaccines remain one of the greatest tools in the public health arsenal.”

For more on Bachmann’s claims, and earlier concerns about Gardasil, watch the following videos:

Discussion Questions:

1.  Why might Merck have been effected by Bachmann’s statements, even if she is considered a fringe candidate?

2.  Why is there so much suspicion about whether Gardasil is necessary?

3.  Was Merck’s response to the scandal sufficient enough to kill the crisis?

Skin cancer PSA goes viral July 15, 2011

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A public service announcement created for the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund went viral in June 2011, gaining well more than 2 millions views. The ad, called “Dear 16-year-old Me,” encourages young teens to wear sunscreen and avoid tanning beds to avoid skin cancer. Although the PSA was over 5 minutes long, it was one of the 20 most shared videos of the month.

See below to watch the PSA yourself:

Discussion Questions:

1.  Why is it so difficult to persuade teenagers to avoid tanning beds and extended exposure to the sun?

2.  Why is “Dear 16-year-old me” so popular online? In other words, what is the recipe to its success?

The American Medical Association takes stand against image manipulation in advertising July 14, 2011

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The American Medical Association (AMA) is lobbying advertisers to adopt a policy of refraining from manipulating body images in new ads. The association reported that “such alterations can contribute to unrealistic expectations of appropriate body image – especially among impressionable children and adolescents,” thus leading to eating disorders and other health problems. Reactions to the AMA’s decision have been mixed, despite widespread concerns about the problems that the group seeks to address. One eating disorder specialist quoted by The Huffington Post reported that there is no causal link between digital editing in ads and health problems among teens. Another media critic, Elizabeth Perle, argued that the ban on digital editing might lead to worse health problems overall since models and other public figures might go to extremes to look perfect for publishers who would no longer be able to touch up  images.

For more on why some media experts are concerned about digital editing and its effects on public health, see the following excerpt from Jean Kilbourne’s “Killing Us Softly.”

Discussion Questions:

1. Do you think excessive altering of images in advertisements leads to health problems among certain groups of people? Why, or why not?

2.  Is the AMA wrong in its new quest? Why, or why not?