MADD: Talk early, talk often to kids about alcohol

Campaign encourages early intervention by parents because kids weigh pros and cons of alcohol as early as age 8.

Amy George
Amy George

Each year in spring and summer — months full of  celebratory events such as prom and graduation — Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) aims to empower parents to have intentional, ongoing conversations with their children about the dangerous, and potentially deadly, consequences of underage drinking.

Now in its fifth year, MADD created PowerTalk 21 making April 21 the national day for parents to talk with their children about not drinking alcohol until age 21. While strategies have changed, the goal is the same — keep kids and communities safe.

In 2015, MADD focused on 21 days of activation, starting April 1 and culminating on April 21, with three main messages:

  • Research that shows children start weighing the pros and cons of drinking alcohol as early as age eight.
  • A 2015 MADD/Nationwide public opinion survey showing that parents start the conversation much too late — the majority listing ages 13 to 18.
  • MADD’s new research-based Power of Parents handbook for parents of middle schoolers bridges that gap.

Together with partners Nationwide and the GM Foundation, MADD reached parents and the public through integrated marketing and communications efforts, using its in-house seven-person team and a $10,000 budget.

MADD kicked off the national campaign with a news event in Houston with Mayor Annise Parker. Thanks to proactive pitching to leading parent bloggers, a shareable infographic and toolkits for MADD’s 200 local affiliates, media coverage ranged from The Washington Post to a Houston Chronicle op-ed to Mom Talk Radio, plus local coverage across the country — more than 56 million media impressions for nearly $100,000 media value over the 21 days.

From a digital perspective, madd.org had the most views on April 21 of any day so far in 2015, and page views on the Power of Parents page were up 132% year-over-year. Additionally, MADD secured more than 500,000 impressions on Facebook and 2.5 million impressions on Twitter.

Finally, community outreach was planned in five key MADD/Nationwide markets and another 30 locations. MADD held a town hall telephone call with MADD supporters and donors, offered online workshops for parents (which saw a 40% increase in participation compared to 2014), and parenting handbook downloads were up more than 100%.

Ultimately, the measure of MADD’s success is decreasing the number of preventable deaths and injuries among teens due to underage alcohol use. The more parents talk early and often with their children, the closer we’ll get to No More Victims – our organization’s new national tagline launched at the start of 2015, our 35th anniversary year.

Amy George is the national SVP of marketing and communications at MADD.

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