Sense of humor increases awareness of periodontal disease

The American Academy of Periodontology and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found nearly half of US adults age 30 and older have some form of periodontal disease.

Client: American Academy of Periodontology (Chicago)
: Weber Shandwick (Chicago and Minneapolis)
: Love the Gums You’re With
: April 2014 – July 2014
: $500,000

The American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found nearly half of US adults age 30 and older have some form of periodontal disease. AAP’s own consumer research also revealed a lack of public awareness about gum disease, its impact on the body, and who the correct person is to treat it.

AAP then hired Weber Shandwick on a project basis and the team came up with a fun and engaging campaign to educate consumers by encouraging them to love their gums.

"The primary objective of this campaign was to get people to understand the disease, symptoms, and overall health implications," says Meg Dempsey, AAP’s assistant director for public, practice, and scientific affairs. "We also wanted to increase awareness that periodontists are gum specialists with advanced training in treating periodontal disease." 

"The challenge with public health campaigns is breaking through because consumers are inundated with health messages," says agency SVP Kristen Thistle. "Getting people to think about and relate to their gums is also a challenge. The "Love the Gums You’re With" name is clever and whimsical with the purpose of getting consumers to engage and understand and love their gums. The natural extension when you love your gums is to take care of them and see an expert when needed."

Original content for consumers and periodontists was developed and delivered on a campaign microsite and social media channels.

Chris Harrison, host of ABC’s The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, served as spokesperson and helped drive broad media coverage.

Dempsey says Harrison’s "relationship guru" image fit nicely with the message of nurturing your relationship with your gums.

"He was able to lend his experience as a host to talk about the importance of first impressions in establishing a relationship and then translate that to some of the implications of gum disease," Dempsey adds.

A media tour in New York City on April 22 and 23 kicked off the campaign. Harrison served as the primary spokesperson. AAP’s president also gave interviews.

Harrison delivered campaign messaging to his Facebook and Twitter audiences.

Media outreach in local markets across the US was conducted April to July. Local market AAP spokespeople were interviewed.

The team developed a report on periodontal health that drew from the CDC’s report, AAP’s consumer research, and other peer-reviewed scientific research. An infographic of key points was also created. Both were posted to the "Love the Gums You’re With" microsite, which launched in April, and used in media outreach. 

The consumer-facing section of the microsite also features an oral health quiz, information about periodontists, and a doctor locator tool.

The microsite’s section for AAP members includes a downloadable digital toolkit with customizable materials to use in local markets and offices.

The team posted messages on AAP’s Facebook and Twitter pages that drove traffic to the microsite.

AAP board members got sample messages to use on their own social media pages.

Traffic to between April and July was up 65% compared to average traffic between December 2013 and March 2014.

An impressive 2,625 earned stories were placed in outlets including The View, CNN Headline News, The Marilu Henner Show, Huffington Post Live,,, and

Harrison’s social media outreach connected with an audience of 372,000 on Twitter and 19,741 on Facebook.

AAP picked up 189 new Twitter followers between April and July (for a total of 1,779).

The campaign got 260 mentions on Facebook and Twitter between April and June 2014.

The campaign extended to AAP’s annual conference in September, where the team hosted a "Love the Gums You’re With" interactive lounge to let AAP members learn more about the campaign and get tips on how to apply toolkit materials and become campaign ambassadors.

AAP approved budget for the campaign to continue and Weber Shandwick will work on it through 2015. Next year’s plans include shifting messaging to focus on periodontists’ expertise and social strategy programs.

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