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#SexMyths PSA blows up teens’ rumors about getting it on February 15, 2014

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How do public health organization dispel teens’ rumors about sex? A new PSA campaign by United Way of Greater Milwaukee is making great strides in its new #SexMyths ads. Each video starts with a teen talking about some popular sex myth, like “If you do jumping jacks after you have sex you can’t get pregnant.” Viewers of the videos are asked whether the statement is true or false, they get the answer after they click, and then they are given more rumors to address. The ads eventually encourage viewers to go to getthesexfacts.com, where adults are encouraged to read about what they’re kids are saying about sex. So far, the campaign is mainly limited to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and at bus shelters.

Notably, experts are saying the campaign is pretty successful. Whereas there were 52 births per 1,000 females ages 15-17 in the city in 2006, the group sees trends reducing that to 30 per 1,000 by 2015 – a 46 percent decline if all works out.

Test your knowledge of #SexMyths by watching the following video:

Discussion Questions:

1.  How does the Milwaukee campaign exhibit the qualities of a viral campaign?

2.  How does the #SexMyths campaign clearly target a specific demographic?

3.  How would one measure the influence of such a campaign?

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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?

“Learn for Life” ad goes viral: Can real orgs learn from hoax? February 6, 2014

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A new public service announcement is going viral. The ad released in January shows two teen couples skipping school and heading for the beach. They drink, remove most of their clothes, and frolic in the sand. Then, suddenly and surprisingly, one of the girls steps on a landmine and blows up. The rest of the group goes in the same bloody, gory manner. At the end of the commercial, a warning flashes, “This is what happens when you slack off. Stay in school.” The ad was apparently created for the Learn for Life Foundation of Western Australia, a non-profit organization. In reality, the ad is a hoax created by filmmaking duo Henry Inglis and Aaron McCann. The two used the opportunity to create something unsettling-but-funny to promote their work. The public took the bait.

What’s most interesting about this ad is its viral potential. In almost a week alone, it received over 13 million views on YouTube. As some critics pointed out, it mastered B-movie horror comedy in ways that clearly registered with some, and horrified others. But it did the trick, and there’s obviously something to be learned from this genre of hoax ads.

To see the ad yourself, watch it here:

Discussion Questions:

1.  What are the characteristics of viral videos?

2.  How did the video above contain those characteristics?

3.  What can other organizations learn from the “Learn for Life” hoax campaign?

Stars past and present team up for anti-NSA PSA December 30, 2013

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A new PSA hit the internet recently, featuring several stars past and present describing the dangers of the current NSA scandal. The NSA, which was famously targeted by whistle-blower Edward Snowden in 2013 who leaked news of the agencies spying practices, has allegedly been collecting information on all Americans, foreign governments and leaders, and perhaps internet users everywhere. The PSA includes stars such as Maggie Gyllenhaal, Wil Wheaton, Phil Donahue, John Cusack, Oliver Stone, and many others. The PSA draws comparisons between recent practices and those of Richard Nixon in the 1970s.

The campaign, called “Stop Watching Us,” is working with over 100 public advocacy groups, including the ACLU, Demand Progress, and even Libertarian organizations. Beyond the PSA, activists have protested in Washington and elsewhere, and attempted to keep the issue in the public eye.

To see the new PSA yourself, watch the following video:

Discussion Questions:

1.  What is the NSA? What did Edward Snowden reveal in 2013?

2.  Why is the revelation of the NSA’s practices so concerning for those who advocate for privacy rights on the internet?

3.  Should the government have access to our internet activity in the name of national security? Why, or why not?

Graphic anti-smoking ads launched in England to start 2013 January 16, 2013

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Government sponsored anti-smoking ads launched at the beginning of 2013 in England, portraying a tumor growing from the end of a man’s cigarette. The campaign claims that smoking 15 cigarettes is enough to lead to serious mutations that cause cancerous tumors. Aiming to shock those who see the advertisements, medical professionals spearheading the campaign suggest that smokers are still underestimating the risks of their behavior.

The United States is no stranger to these kinds of tactics since the genre of shocking anti-smoking ads has been around at least since “The Truth” campaign became prominent 10 years ago. But do these types of shock ads work? According to experts from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, they definitely do. As Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, remarked, his agency ran one campaign for 12 weeks with the hope of getting 500,000 people to try to quit smoking. He stated, “The initial results suggest the impact will be even greater than that.”

To see the newest anti-smoking shock ad currently running in England, watch the following video:

Discussion Questions:

1.  What is the purpose of a “shock ad,” and why would someone think they’d be effective?

2.  How might shock ads, especially in respect to smoking, be counter-productive?

“Speechless,” Special Olympics PSA, stuns viewers August 13, 2012

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The Special Olympics has started airing a new public service announcement (PSA), titled “Speechless,” featuring Special Olympics athlete and golfer Susie Doyens. Doyens, who was mostly mute during her childhood, speaks about how her experience in the Special Olympics helped her deal with social anxiety, and evolve into a confident adult. Doyens went on to win over 180 medals in 26 years after asking her parents if she could participate in Special Olympics events. With millions of others hoping to participate, Doyens hopes to help others like her conquer their fears.

To see “Speechless” yourself, watch the following video:

Discussion Questions:

1.  What does the Special Olympics hope to accomplish with its new PSA?

2.  What is the main strategy that the organization uses by featuring Doyens? How does narrative captivate audiences?

With “Tips from Former Smokers” ads, anti-smoking campaigns get even more graphic July 29, 2012

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The anti-smoking Tips Campaign aims to spread the news about the dangers of smoking. While this has been done for years, Tips is breaking ground by using real people in their ads, people who struggle everyday as the result of their smoking-related diseases. The graphic ads were suggested by the Institute of Medicine, National Cancer Institute, and Surgeon General, based on the need to scare those who still shrug off the dangers of smoking. Since more than 443,000 deaths occur each year in the U.S. due to cigarette smoking, the CDC and other groups have hundreds of thousands of reasons to step up their efforts.

To see a few of the ads yourself, watch the following videos:

Discussion Questions:

1.  Why do people still smoke, despite the proof that it causes horrific diseases?

2.  Why are the “Tips” ads so effective?

3.  Can anti-smoking ads get any more graphic?

Successful “Don’t Say Gay” PSA produced by eighth grader December 4, 2011

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An American eighth grader, Grant Viola, produced a public service announcement for school urging viewers to refrain from saying “gay” in a derogatory sense. The “Don’t Say Gay PSA” was posted to YouTube and quickly became viral. Although the ad is simple, its use of humor was likely its hook. Viola is pleased with his success. Explaining the meaning of his ad, he stated, “People can’t help who they’re attracted to, and that word shouldn’t be used to mean stupid.”

To see the PSA yourself, watch the following video:

Discussion Questions:

1.  Why did the “Don’t Say Gay” PSA become so popular?

2.  What does the case study of Grant Viola say about the democratization of public relations?

Is a shocking PSA from ISPCC too much for television? June 3, 2011

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The Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC) used a shocking PSA to launch its summer campaign against child abuse. The video shows a young boy being slapped, punched, thrown, and kicked, and ends with him telling viewers that he “can’t wait to grow up” so that he can help other abused children. The ISPCC stated that it wanted a PSA that was shocking enough to stir the public, but some critics are claiming that they crossed the line.

Psychologist Owen Connolly, who was quoted in Ireland’s Evening Herald, argued that the ad by ISPCC is horrific. “It will provoke all kinds of trauma,” he said, continuing “It shouldn’t be allowed to be broadcast.” The problem, Connolly suggested, is that victims of abuse especially in their 40s, 50s, and 60s will be forced to recall their own terrifying memories. “When you’ve got a shocking image like that with an adult and a child,” he argued, “it’s very difficult for them to deal with.”

To see the PSA yourself, watch the following video:

Discussion Questions:

1.  Why do organizations like the ISPCC feel the need to shock audiences with their advertisements?

2.  Is there a simple test to determine if an ad is too shocking?

3.  Is the ISPCC’s anti-child abuse ad inappropriate? Why, or why not?

Are “heroin hamburgers” the next body bag anti-smoking ads? October 5, 2010

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An Australian anti-obesity campaign is turning heads with a new PSA comparing parents who feed their children junk food to those who’d willingly give their kids addictive drugs. An Australian ad firm was also responsible for the “body bag” anti-smoking ads associated with “The Truth” campaigns that were so effective in America. The vivid imagery has proved disturbing to some media critics who’ve suggested that the ad is over the top. As one noted, “Bravo. Nothing like making parents and caregivers feel like criminals to get them on the side of your cause.” Nevertheless, the ad has gone viral, thus making it a success in the sense that it has garnered major attention.

To see the PSA yourself, watch the following video:

Discussion Questions:

1.  What is it about the “heroin hamburger” ad that made it ripe for going viral on the internet?

2.  Is the ad too extreme? Why, or why not?

3.  Would this kind of ad be a success in America? Why, or why not?