WASHINGTON: In an effort to encourage America's youth to form healthy relationships and avoid violent dating patterns, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has awarded Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide a three-year contract worth more than $3.3 million to lead its national "Choose Respect" initiative.
Work has already begun on the effort. Ogilvy intends to present the CDC with a master plan for the effort to reach youth and youth influencers before the end of the year, according to Jennifer Wayman, SVP and group director of social marketing at Ogilvy in Washington.
Constella Group, a health services agency, has been working with the CDC on other aspects of the initiative, as well.
According to the CDC, one in 11 teens reports being a victim of physical dating abuse each year, while one in four teens reports verbal, physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. The initiative seeks to raise awareness within the target demographic about this type of abuse.
The campaign will be heavily focused on new media and social networking, according to Wayman, who says the idea is to concentrate on the ways in which kids between the ages of 11 and 14 find and consume information. It is likely the team will also revamp the Web site (http://www.chooserespect.org/) as part of the effort.
"So far, they've been successful doing quite a bit of community-based outreach and talking to people who influence kids," added Wayman, "but the CDC is interested in splitting off from that and moving toward the direct-to-kids approach."
The campaign hopes to engage youngsters in an effective and realistic fashion. To that end, it hopes to make use of a small group of young "advisers" that will be used to get feedback on sample materials and media. That plan, according to Marie Boyle, a health communications specialist at CDC, is still in the early stages.
"The hope is that we can actually engage kids and have them help us develop what the best outreach strategies are so that we're not doing this top-down, father-knows-best approach," explained Wayman.
In addition to a heavy social networking component, the team will aggressively seek partnerships with both traditional organizations with influence over that age group, such as the Girl Scouts and the Boys and Girls Club of America. It will also pursue partnerships with retail outlets and other places kids spend their time.
"One of our goals is to reach youth where they are, whether it's a school or somewhere they are spending their free time," Boyle said.
She added that the CDC has spent years conducting supportive studies on the Choose Respect effort, and bringing Ogilvy on-board means the agency is finally ready to launch national outreach to their target demographic.
"We have been doing research around the initiative - testing materials, testing messages, doing a review to find out the need for an initiative - for the past five years," Boyle said.
"We've done a lot of testing to develop the base and make sure we really have the right message. So now we're really ready to launch."
Boyle outlined two measurement techniques the agency would use to attempt to gauge the effectiveness of the initiative.
In the short term, it will look at process outcomes to determine whether people are using the materials and whether or not they are familiar with the message.
The second measurement will be down the road, taking a national youth sample to judge whether knowledge and attitudes have changed.
The account win caps a successful season of health-related government contracts for Ogilvy. In addition to the Choose Respect initiative, the firm is also working with the CDC to review hepatitis prevention efforts, and was also given an 18-month contract to work with the CDC's Community Health Portal. In addition, the agency won a contract from the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition to help increase consumer awareness of the potential for food terrorism.
"It was an exceptionally strong summer for us," said Robert Mathias, MD of Ogilvy in Washington. "And if you look at the [trust] the government is placing in us, it's a tremendous load of confidence."