The shift in strategy will see retailers, supermarkets, private and public gyms, chemists, the voluntary sector and community groups playing a central role in the government department's communications.
The move comes as the DoH steps up its attempts to improve the fitness of a nation increasingly ridiculed by its European Union peers for its bad health and love affair with junk food.
‘People do not want more or better information but they want to understand it. Everyone knows they should eat "five a day" [fruit and vegetable portions], but this alone will not change behaviour, and people are more likely to trust people they know,' said a spokeswoman. Traditionally, Whitehall campaigns have been advertising-led, with PR and other comms activity in support.
Social marketing is an attempt by the DoH to better target its messages. It will be used for the first time in a campaign to tackle obesity and health inequalities when the unit goes live in January.
Such campaigns are likely to involve regional marketing campaigns, comprising a range of groups and local people.
The DoH appointed four agencies - Band & Brown, The Constella Group, The Forster Company and The Red Consultancy - to a section of its PR agency roster badged ‘social marketing' six weeks ago (PRWeek, 1 Sep).