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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?

Horrifyingly unforgettable: Darren Aronofsky assists MethProject.com in new campaign November 21, 2012

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The Meth Project has run some memorable ads in an effort to dissuade Americans from trying the highly addictive drug for the first time. Now the organization is getting assistance from famous director Darren Aronofsky. The maker of Requiem for a Dream, Aronofsky has agreed to produce several TV sports to create the harsh realities of the self-destruction caused by meth addiction. According to most viewers, the public service announcements (PSAs) are incredibly shocking and very effective.

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

Discussion Questions:

1.  Are the PSAs created by Darren Aronofsky too graphic for television? Why, or why not?

2.  Are Aronofsky’s ads effective, or are they too over the top?

3.  How might The Meth Project be able to determine the effectiveness of its new campaign?

Ad Council turns 70 years old February 23, 2012

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The Ad Council was founded in 1941 ahead of World War II. While its main function was to sell War Bonds, 70 years later the Ad Council is known for being a leader in public service announcements. With a reputation for producing some of the most iconic ads in history, the Ad Council has become a trusted brand.

For examples of the Ad Council’s iconic ads, see the following link:

http://www.npr.org/2012/02/18/146888861/still-against-fire-drinking-and-litter-70-years-of-advice-from-the-ad-council

To see a celebratory ad produced by the Ad Council, see the following video:

Discussion Questions:

1.  What is the function of the Ad Council?

2.  Is the Ad Council’s work harder now that there are multiple forms of mass media and fewer captive audiences?

3.  Which of the iconic ads produced by the Ad Council are the most memorable for you? Why were those ads so powerful?

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?

New ad for American Heart Association starring Ken Jeong is a major hit September 20, 2011

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The American Heart Association has released a PSA starring comedian Ken Jeong to teach viewers that CPR can be easily performed by keeping the beat to The Bee Gees’ “Staying Alive.” Jeong, who is an internal medicine physician, considered it an honor to be in the ad. The AHA made good use of his volunteering, and hired filmmaker Jesse Dylan, the creative force behind will.i.am’s “Yes, We Can,” to make the ad.

To see the ad yourself, as well as Jeong’s comments from behind-the-scene’s footage, watch the following videos:

Discussion Questions:

1.  Why is humor such a powerful strategy for creating a PSA?

2.  What is so catchy about the American Heart Association’s new PSA?

3.  Does the comedy outweigh the educational value of the PSA? Why, or why not?

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?

A shock to raise awareness: South Africa’s POWA experiments December 20, 2010

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A South African group called People Opposing Women Abuse released a new advertisement recently based on an experiment they ran that produced some shocking results. Curious to see if residents of an apartment development would report a domestic disturbance, the group had a resident play drums one night to see how many people confronted him, and followed on another night by playing a horrific recording of domestic violence that sounded very real. While many people knocked on the resident’s door while he played drums, nobody came around to complain about the domestic dispute.

The ad’s creators considered the episode to be an eye opener. Moreover, the ad has been a real hit online, seen by millions of people, and ultimately raising awareness of the abuse of women.

To see the POWA ad yourself, watch the following clip:

Discussion Questions:

1.  Why are “shock ads” like that of POWA so effective in raising awareness of certain social issues?

2.  Are there limitations in persuasive strategies designed to shock an audience?

Persuading the Reluctant Public: US government looks to PSAs to push H1N1 vaccination December 8, 2009

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U.S. health officials have declared that there are no serious side effects to the swine flu vaccine after recording only 3,200 complaints from the 22 million people who have been vaccinated. Nevertheless, a recent Fox News poll suggested that more than a third of Americans are afraid of getting their H1N1 vaccines, and that around 40 percent think it was produced too quickly to know whether it is actually safe.

In hopes of convincing the reluctant members of the public to get vaccinated as soon as possible, the federal government has launched a new nationwide public-service advertising campaign called “Together We Can All Fight the Flu.” The campaign currently consists of seven 30-second commercials, three radio spots, online banner ads and outdoor ads. The recent ads feature average people talking about their reasons for getting the vaccine, which differs from early strategies of using high-profile figures to push the public to act.

See the following video for a representative example of the video ads in the new campaign:

Discussion Questions:

1.  Why are Americans not getting the H1N1 vaccine? What kinds of messages would work to effectively address their concerns?

2.  Why do you think the “Together We Can All Fight the Flu” campaign has decided to use everyday people rather than celebrities to push their message?

3.  What persuasive strategies are used in the video above? Are they effective? Why, or why not?

Controversial texting-while-driving PSA: Too graphic, or absolutely necessary? September 7, 2009

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A recent public service announcement produced in Gwent, Wales has received significant attention for using blood, gore, and a whole lot of fear to convince drivers to not text while driving. Two teen girls appear to be giggling while sending and receiving texts on a phone, only to hit another car head-on. The action is slowed down significantly, with passengers in multiple vehicles dying in a very emotional moment. The South Wales police department that ordered the PSA analyzed a number of depressing studies indicating that a high percentage of vehicle fatalities are caused by texting, and hoped to get the message out to as many as possible.

So far, as NPR‘s Elizabeth Blair recently discovered, reactions have been mixed: viewers are horrified, but many think that the ad will not significantly reduce accidents caused by the dangerous practice. To see the ad yourself, please watch the following video:

Discussion Questions:

1.  In your own opinion, was the PSA effective or not?  What was effective about the ad?  What was problematic?

2.  Is there a limit to the power of fear appeals?

3.  Should the ad be able to air in the United States?  Why, or why not?