Tackling the problem of childhood obesity

Controversial ads followed by an ongoing PR campaign helped Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and AOR Jackson Spalding jumpstart conversation about childhood obesity.

Client: Children's Healthcare of Atlanta (Atlanta)
Agency: Jackson Spalding (Atlanta)
Campaign: Strong4Life
Duration: February - December 2011
Budget: $165,500

Controversial ads followed by an ongoing PR campaign helped Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and AOR Jackson Spalding jumpstart conversation about childhood obesity.

Tim Whitehead, Children's VP of marketing and communications, says the public was ignoring the issue despite prominent national studies revealing Georgia has the second highest rate of childhood obesity in the US.

“Our own research showed parents and other caregivers weren't recognizing it as an issue of importance,” Whitehead explains. “Before we could create change we had to raise awareness that childhood obesity is a health crisis.”

The campaign launched in pilot cities Macon and Columbus before hitting Atlanta.

Opposition to the ads (created by Grey Atlanta) was expected. Media relations and partnerships with like-minded organizations and experts helped support Children's Healthcare's position. Strong4Life.com, social media outreach, and events also drove messaging.

Broadcast ads launched February 14 in Macon and Columbus and drove viewers to Strong4Life.com, which includes educational information and an invitation to engage on Facebook.

Strong reactions followed and national media quickly picked up the story. Children's Healthcare doctors, local experts, and consultants who administer Strong4Life school programs were offered as sources to local media. Children's Healthcare SVPs also talked to local and national outlets.

Editorials detailing the position of Children's Healthcare were placed locally.

Free public events were hosted in May at city parks in Macon and Columbus and in October at The King Center in Atlanta. Live radio remotes were conducted.

Updates were regularly posted on Facebook. The page includes a dedicated email address. The team responds quickly to emails, but Whitehead says the preference is to allow the Facebook community to take the lead in commenting on negative wall posts.

The Atlanta leg and Twitter engagement launched in August. Partners established in Atlanta include the YMCA and Girl Scouts of America.

In-house research conducted in March showed nearly 60% awareness in Macon and Columbus of childhood obesity as a crisis. A January Research Now survey showed 93% awareness in Atlanta of childhood obesity as a serious problem.

Whitehead reports more than $3 million in corporate donations to help fund community programs and communications efforts.

Launch event attendance topped 3,500.

School programs reached 4,897 kids at 10 schools.

Ending December, the campaign had garnered nearly 2,000 Facebook likes; 42,000 YouTube channel views; and about 480 Twitter followers. Numbers have since increased to nearly 3,000, 711,341, and 648, respectively.

Seventy stories ran in local outlets (about 4.5 million impressions). National coverage includes Today, CBS News, ABC News, and AP (metrics were unavailable).

The campaign will expand throughout Georgia. Focus on fundraising will increase this year.

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