The American Optometric Association (AOA) worked with the Vision Care Institute at Johnson & Johnson to develop a public health program that would guarantee free comprehensive eye exams for infants in their first year of life.
In launching the program, AOA not only wanted to publicize the services, but also draw attention to the bigger issue of infant eye health, says Susan Thomas, associate PR director for the AOA. After narrowing the list of potential firms down to three, the group chose MS&L to work on the campaign.
"We felt that MS&L would take the program to a level that we had never even envisioned we could do," Thomas says. One of the main parts of the effort would be driving traffic to a special website where visitors could find AOA members who were participating in the program.
"Our greatest emphasis was to drive as much national attention as we could," says Kelly Dencker, SVP and director of the New York healthcare practice at MS&L. Because the target audience was young mothers, fathers, and caregivers, the team had to figure out a way to best assess the current knowledge of infant eye health.
MS&L teamed up with babycenter.com to conduct a survey of 543 new or expectant mothers. "What we found was a lot of mothers were unaware of the fact that the eyes develop so rapidly from 6 to 12 months of age," Dencker says. "Nobody had really thought about getting your eyes checked outside of your pediatrician." From there, the team could craft a message on the importance of an optometrist as a complement to a pediatrician's services, including statistics from the survey.
Because former President Jimmy Carter has two grandchildren with amblyopia (lazy eye), he volunteered to help with InfantSEE. MS&L decided to use him as a spokesman.
Before the launch, a PSA was filmed featuring Carter that stressed the need for infant eye assessments by eye-care pros. The PSA aired at the InfantSEE launch event on June 8, 2005, at Kidville, a New York City children's activity center.
The team also conducted multi-level media outreach, setting up interviews for Carter with such outlets as USA Today and Today. Dencker says it was also important to target long-lead women's and parenting publications at the same time to ensure the story would play out over several months.
"We didn't want this to be a one-shot wonder," he says. "We wanted to spread it out from a resource perspective, as well as a media perspective." And so MS&L set up a luncheon specifically for long-lead publications on the same day as the launch.
In addition to national coverage, the campaign resulted in major traffic to InfantSEE's website. On the first day alone, there were 11,000 visitors to the site, resulting in more than 14,000 searches for service providers. Thomas says that the AOA site's doctor locator usually receives about 800 to 1,000 search queries daily. Within six weeks, the website attracted more than 63,000 visitors, with more than 1,800 opt-ins to an InfantSEE newsletter.
In addition, a toll-free InfantSEE line received more than 2,200 calls.
"We've been very pleased. The launch was absolutely flawless," says Thomas. "It has been a wonderful partnership."
In its second year of work with InfantSEE, Dencker says the team will build off the success of the launch. Engaging consumers on a national level is one of the continued goals.
"We want to really surround our target and communicate on a national and a local level throughout the year," he says.
PR team: American Optometric Association (St. Louis) and MS&L (New York)
Campaign: InfantSEE launch
Time frame: January to December 2005