Recently, R&R Partners created a TV spot for WaytoQuit.org that tested among the top-10 most effective anti-smoking messages nationally. The emotionally jarring spot was extremely effective at inspiring quit attempts, especially among parents with kids. Based on the success of that campaign, we’re now taking the message one step further.
Many smokers in Utah are young males without children who don’t watch much TV. R&R needed a message that would encourage quit attempts among this audience, too. Research showed that while many young males don’t have families, they do have pets that they consider family, and that secondhand smoke harms pets as much as it does babies and toddlers.
So, the employees at R&R Salt Lake City brought in their various dogs, cats, parrots and rabbits and filmed them right there in the office. Visual effects were then added to show the animals puffing on cigarettes, pipes and cigars. The message was simple, “If you smoke, your pets smoke.” The videos ran on social media and pre-roll.
The results have been impressive. During January/February, the first months that the smoking animal videos ran, visits to waytoquit.org (the website featuring tobacco cessation information) tripled from the same time last year, while time spent on the site doubled. Quit service enrollments, both telephone and online, also increased 30 percent.
The videos will be featured at a national tobacco prevention conference.
R&R Partners’ “Behind Bad Decisions” billboard for Parents Empowered has been selected to appear in the prestigious Communication Arts (CA) 2016 Advertising Annual.
CA’s Award of Excellence is one of the most coveted in the advertising industry, and of the thousands of international entries, only 138 ads were selected for publication this year.
The Parents Empowered billboard was the result of research showing that many parents viewed underage drinking as a teen boy problem. Based on that perception, these parents often didn’t talk to their daughters about not drinking underage. (In reality, teen males and females report roughly the same rates of alcohol use.)
Award-Winning Communication Arts Billboard
The research, however, also showed that when it came to their daughters, parents were extremely concerned about unplanned pregnancies. By connecting teen pregnancy to underage drinking, the billboard helped elevate the issue of girls’ drinking underage.
The “Behind Bad Decisions” billboard-behind-another-billboard execution was so convincing that many people posted about it on social media, commenting on the irony of the situation. Then other people commented on how naïve those people were. Then, people said, “Stop being mean. How was I supposed to know? It’s a really clever ad.”
It’s hardly news. For the past 35 years, that’s the message Mothers Against Drunk Driving and law enforcement have championed nationwide. It’s also the message that the Department of Highway Safety hired R&R Partners to promote in Utah.
It seems like a simple assignment—advertising something that everybody already knows. However, that widespread knowledge is also the challenge: How does one take a decades-old message that nobody pays attention to anymore and resay it in a way that changes people’s behavior?
The answer to that question recently resulted in news stories across America. Again. R&R Partners’ drunk driving prevention campaign in Utah regularly generates national headlines. The latest buzz was about R&R turning Salt Lake City bar bathrooms into jail cells, letting patrons see what a DUI looks like moments before deciding whether to drive home or call a cab. In one day, a marketing investment of less than $10,000 turned into more than $100,000 worth of local media attention and millions of dollars in news coverage, nationwide.
Drunk people make bad decisions.
Yes, it’s another obvious observation, but it’s also the key to R&R’s drunk driving prevention success. If people get so drunk they can’t remember their names, how can somebody expect them to remember a TV commercial they saw last week telling them not to drink and drive? Instead, R&R Partners has pushed advertising as close as possible to the point of decision—that moment between when people finish their last beer and pull out their car keys.
The results have been bar tables replaced with prison visiting booths reading, “No designated driver? Get used to this view,” complete with working telephones on both sides of the security glass. Kiddie car rides retrofitted to support adults up to 300 pounds and painted like cop cars, along with the message, “Drive drunk and ride in the real thing.” Toll-free numbers to dial and practice your one phone call from jail with a virtual irate mom, girlfriend, lawyer and others. Billiard balls that simulate drunk driving accidents, coin-op photo booths that produce mug shots, toilet stickers with type so small, it’s only legible if your head is buried in the bowl, (“If you can read this, call a cab.”), and dozens more marketing experiences at football tailgate parties, ski resort lodges, state liquor stores, and pretty much anywhere else people might have a few drinks before driving home.
In addition, billboards near clubs, restaurants, stadiums and bars remind people leaving the parking lots that DUIs result in mandatory arrest, and radio ads (usually heard while driving) run prior to key holiday weekends when drunk driving spikes, like New Year’s Eve and Halloween, letting people know that police will be out in full force, cracking down on DUIs.
The result of all this point of decision marketing has been surprising. Drunk driving arrests and deaths in Utah have steadily declined since the campaign launched, but that was expected. What nobody knew would happen, however, is that by not running drunk driving television ads and reallocating those funds to more nontraditional marketing executions, the Department of Highway Safety actually increased their presence on TV. By partnering with local businesses, community leaders and sports teams to create innovative DUI prevention messages, R&R Partners also created a steady stream of news coverage that far outweighed what could have been purchased in paid advertising, with approximately $4 in earned media coverage for every dollar spent on the campaign, including agency fees.
For a message that hasn’t been news in decades, you shouldn’t drink and drive, that’s pretty good.
Anti-tobacco. Anti-drunk driving. Anti-underage drinking. Anti-prescription drug abuse. Anti-water waste. The list of social issues marketing goes on and on, including everything from public transit to seat-belt safety to pet spay and neuter.
Why so many social issues ad campaigns? Well, for starters, R&R stopped calling them ad campaigns a long time ago. Now, we call them what they really are − community mobilization efforts.
It takes a village to raise a perception
The secret to effective social issues marketing isn’t a secret at all. Two scholars named Martin Fishbein and Icek Ajzen figured it out in 1980 and named it the Theory of Reasoned Action. As an equation, the theory looks like this:
In practice, it’s a lot easier to understand. Basically, it says that people’s beliefs, attitudes, intentions and behaviors don’t change in a vacuum. Every step along the way, people are looking around at what other people’s beliefs, attitudes and behaviors are, too. The more that everybody else believes or behaves a certain way, the easier it is for a person’s beliefs or behaviors to change and conform.
It makes sense. You see a billboard telling you that underage drinking impairs a teen’s brain development, and you think, “That’s interesting.” However, if you see your local bar, and supermarket, and office building, and gas station, and ski resort, and sports team, and friend all telling you to keep alcohol away from teens because it impairs proper brain development, then you’re likely to keep alcohol away from teens. Sometimes peer pressure is a good thing.
Creating win-win-win-win situations
To date, R&R Salt Lake City has created more than 230 unique community activations and partnerships for its social issues clients, ranging from cement companies putting spinning messages on the barrels of their trucks to the U.S. Ski Team wearing crushed beer can gold medals during training camp. The more unique and innovative the opportunity, the better. Three months ago, R&R built a taxidermy display of Utah’s deadliest predators at a sporting goods store, featuring a drunk driver as by far and away the most dangerous creature in the state. (We didn’t kill and stuff a drunk driver, by the way.) Stinky air fresheners, toilet bowl stickers, parade floats, billiard balls, fortune cookies, 13-foot-tall nutcrackers − they’ve all been featured as part of R&R’s social issues partnerships.
Companies and organizations like to partner on the issues because it shows them as good corporate citizens. The media likes the partnerships because they allow them to talk about important, but old and tired, issues in fresh, new ways. Our clients like the partnerships because they stretch budgets and earn free media coverage (more than $43 million), and the community benefits from the partnerships because they make positive attitude and behavior changes more likely. Everybody wins.
And speaking of winning
R&R’s social campaigns are among the most awarded and respected in America. MADD has named R&R’s underage drinking prevention efforts as the nation’s outstanding PSA campaign twice, and patterned MADD’s own national prevention efforts on R&R’s model. The American Public Transportation Association and National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse directors have officially recognized R&R’s campaigns as industry best practices, and R&R’s social issues advertising has won dozens of state, national and international creative awards.
The biggest win for R&R Partners, however, are the thousands of people leading healthier, happier and more secure lives as a result of our work.