Of Campaigns.

13 09 2009

A recent article depicting the launch of a US health campaign to combat against childhood obesity in an interesting way, caught my eye whilst I was sieving through global world affairs in the news.

In a bid to counter child obesity in the US, which “has more than tripled since 1980, with more than 9 million school age children over the age of 6 in the U.S. considered overweight”, the US Department of Health and Human Services has launched a new series of public service advertisements (PSAs) “designed to address childhood overweight and obesity”, which will be distributed to various media outlets in the coming week.

What intrigued me was that this campaign featured a joint collaboration with Warner Bros. Pictures, inculcating the release of a movie adaptation from Maurice Sendak’s classic “Where the Wild Things Are”.

Where The Wild Things AreSource: APF/File

Television, radio, print, outdoor and Internet ads featuring characters and scenes from the film will be constantly aired throughout the country, targeted at children. An example includes “television ads featuring the film’s young hero, Max, running, jumping and having fun in the wild with various creatures from the story.” The campaign’s purpose is to encourages kids to start their own “Wild Rumpus” by finding time to play every day and touts the benefits of regular physical activity. Families have been urged to visit www.smallstep.gov for innovative ideas in activities and play. With such high frequency and intensity, as well as the incorporation of various channels available to reach out to both children and parents, I must say it is indeed a commendable effort on the organisation’s part.

I was impressed by the immense effort taken to inject a sense of novelty and stimuli in this particular campaign. The main audience comprising largely of children; the need to create appeal and instill a high level of creativity was definitely required to make any impact on the curious minds of children. Worth noting was the particular selection and usage of  a general storyline from children literature to perk interests in kids, instead of one that might have leaned towards targeting a particular gender, which might not prove to be as effective.

However, to leave more lasting impressions amongst the target audience, the usage of more interaction would have been significant if employed. Perhaps the organisation could have considered appealing to children via online interactive games, or if financial budget permits, to hold actual events such as skits & games in schools, or  funfairs in certain states, promoting the importance of staying fit and healthy. This ensures that children get involved and active, and allows for simultaneous engagement and mutual exchanges.

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Another crucial point in consideration, would be how kids interpret these  ads derived from movie scenes. Being human allows us to be able to avoid, filter or retain specific information, leading to (usually) an unconscious mental selection process. Children may not be able to discern or read in between lines to fully grasp the message behind these fictious scenes, omitting critical meaning for salient information and losing the focus utterly, which may lead to the possibility of total defeat of  purpose of this campaign. This is further exacerbated by the fact that the original novel and movie has completely no relation whatsoever with the subject of health, much less obesity. In this case, it may prove to mislead or create perceptual errors.

So. What do you think of such an approach being harnessed in the arena of campaigning, in particular, cases of specific target audiences?

Source: http://www.redorbit.com/news/health/1752018/wild_things_encourage_children_to_become_active/index.html

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11 responses

13 09 2009
Ho

To employ the use of a movie as a mean to promote a campaign in alleviating childhood obesity is definitely a good idea. This is especially so if the target audience is that of the children, who might not subscribe to traditional methods of campaigns like rallies, talks, brochures etc. Through this medium, children can then be better engaged, even more so since this movie is an adventurous cartoon film. The informal propaganda hidden within a cartoon will definitely allow children to be more receptive.

However, to ensure that the message put across is not transactional but transformational, the relevant authorities should follow up with other means to enhance the message from the movie, by organising various activities like fitness days, health checks and talks so as to further enhance their knowledge on the harms of being obese and how to keep fit. Outdoor activities that promote adventure and fitness can also be organised to provide a platform for children to have fun and keep fit at the same time.

All in all, it is imperative that the attitudes and mindsets of the children be changed and aligned towards a healthy and positive one.

14 09 2009
Jeremy

good points.great post!.keep it up!

14 09 2009
Stefanie

The usage of more interaction would definitely have been significant if employed. Interesting points raised, you have put logos into good use. Keep up the good work baybeh!

14 09 2009
Jeremy

yes and you mentioned about trying to attract kids to something.This relates to the appeals that we’ve learned in comm 101. Furthermore, the audience is an essential part in communication.!

14 09 2009
Namka

Hi,
If there is a need for movies to influence young kids to be more active, does that mean US schools are doing not well enough to get children to be more active at taking part in outdoor activities?
They might as well make Justin Timberlake sing about how cool it is to be part of a sports team.
Namka
http://lifestoolong.wordpress.com

14 09 2009
David Lucas

The target audience is the younglings. The ones with the ability to act on the message is the parents. Unless there are drastic measures done to free up the busy schedule of the working class, I don’t really see how effective this government effort will be. You can’t realistically be expecting every fat little kid to be embarking on a wild adventure in the woods all by himself, can you? This is akin to the recent socialist healthcare policy the US president plans to put in place. Initiate without planning. Action without thought.

14 09 2009
phyllis

well seriously the ad reminds me of the movie “Madagascar”. haha!

okay back to serious commenting!

i think this ad is good in a sense that we can really understand and point out that the target audience of this ad is of course, the children.
however, to ensure that this campaign is a hit, what the US govt needs is not just the support of the children, but also the parents and even, the society.

for example, the grassroots leaders in the various states can respond to the campaign by organising events catering to the campaign. just like the saying goes, “it takes two hands to clap” so if the kids are interested to take a step but they are not receiving enough motivation to do so, then i guess this campaign may not be a hit.

16 09 2009
Kenny

i think it’s interesting yet depending on how it’s being put into effect, it might be a good or a bad thing~

take for e.g. if they were to incorporate this such that it blends in with educational or academic text, i think it’ll actually kill 2 birds with one stone~ but if they were to consider the whole “Wild Rumpus”, i think it’s quite subjective because how many parents are going to let their kids roam around by themselves~

plus one more area we need to consider is the information being conveyed in the film, because children have the tendency to “live their dreams” literally~ if there’s any “flying” or “sword fighting” involved, etc, could it be possible that a children, inspired by the movie characters, want to be like them as well?

16 09 2009
gpcyouth

Staying fit and healthy (I’m using the terms interchangeably here even though they aren’t really the same thing) is not something that should be left to a movie, or the mass media in general, to instill into children. It boils down to parents and society as a whole having failed in nurturing a sense of self-concern and pride in recent generations.

Taking care of one’s own body should come naturally. Parents should spend time and take the effort to lead by example by choosing healthier food and lifestyle options and not to just take the shortcut in everything. The hectic pace of today’s society means that everything, including food, has a need to be fast, appealing and plentiful.

Perhaps we should all slow down and take things slow for a change in areas that would improve the standard of being alive. Lest mankind devolves into a large, gelatinuous glob in the not-yet-inevitable trainwreck of the future.

17 09 2009
drawurswords

I agree with what gpcyouth has to say. Some issues like keeping fit and smoking are relying too much on the government and organisations to help deal with. It is your own responsibility to take care of your own health.

However, the steps taken by these organisations help improve and reinforce the message needed to send across. Mass communication is an excellent form of communication to reinforce values. This, combined with interpersonal communication will raise the importance of the message sent (in mass communication, the message is assumed to be received 100%; this can be seen in the linear model of communication.) It is only natural to repeat something that is very important rather than trash talk.

You mentioned an issue about the different reactions and ideas an advertisement could create in people of different age groups with different perceptions. Like I mentioned earlier, one form of communication is not enough to substantiate the message intended. Kids who have lesser experience may seek the advice of adults to help explain to them what is being portrayed in the advertisements. Only with the combination of different types of communication would one get closer to the intended idea sent.

17 09 2009
Xue Li

The idea of inculcating the importance of an active lifestyle through a movie is a novel one. However, in today’s society, where fads and trends come and go, I doubt that the effect of the movie on young children will be long-lasting. Sure, the movie may be a great hit amongst the children, and children may start venturing outdoors as intended by the authorities. The problem is that how long will it exist? What if after a while, they realise the great outdoors isn’t that fun after all, since it will not be possible to replicate the movie scenarios in real life? Moreover, their attention may shift to another movie in a short while, and forget what they should have learnt from the “Where the Wild Things Are” movie. Hence, the movie is a good way to catch children’s attention, but it should not be relied on as the main pillar to address child obesity. Communication from such a high authority has the limitation that there will be time lapses in feedback, so it will be difficult to work out a better solution in case the communication fails. A suggestion would be to introduce more field trips in schools, where teachers will be able to reinforce the fun of outdoors, as they’ll be able to monitor the children’s progress in taking initiative to be active. This should be a refreshing change to the normal physical education lessons in school, where activities are limited to more common sports such as swimming, badminton, soccer, etc.

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