It is currently November, aka Christmas pre-season, so I thought I’d start preparing my wish list for the upcoming year of health campaigns.
1) Awesome interactive health promotions
Watching a televised marathon, it can be difficult to fully comprehend the speed and talent of the athletes. Sure, the runners look pretty fast, but are frequently so composed that the true strain of 26.2 lightning fast miles is lost on the viewer. Asics and Vitro recently developed a campaign to promote the New York City marathon, allowing even couch potatoes a chance to compete with the best. A long screen was set up along a wall in a New York subway station that counted down to a 60-foot race against Ryan Hall, an world record holding American endurance runner. Digital Ryan looks relaxed, like he’s enjoying a casual jog. In reality, his casual jog is a sub-5 minute mile pace. Ambitious passersby sprint next to him.. and eventually behind him.
I love this campaign’s clever use of technology to stimulate curiosity and physical activity. Imagine a hanging poster that reads: “Run this 60 foot stretch as fast as you can! Fitness is fun!” Probably not as motivating. The huge video screens are attention grabbing and viewers are engaged by a simple question, “Think you can keep pace with an elite marathoner?” The location choice is also very smart. After sitting on a subway for extended periods of time, many people get antsy and bored. This campaign gives pedestrians the opportunity to burn off some energy and stress. I think an airport would be another great spot for a digital race. Maybe we will see Usain Bolt at O’Hare sometime.
2) More PSAs in place of commercial advertising
I understand both the necessity and comfort of commercial advertising. Advertisers sell dreams of a better and happier life through cool stuff. Public service announcements sell you the cold hard facts of reality through data. Not as much fun. Yet ads on public transportation become mobile billboards. This becomes a great opportunity to get people to think about health, even if briefly, while navigating through traffic. The above ad is from the Rhode Island Department of Health. Though the visual is an eye-popping reminder of how much sugar is in soft drinks, I can also understand where this message would be off-putting to some. The Asics campaign focused on fun, while this one focuses on personal responsibility in parenting and nutrition.
But if advertisers can put a fun spin on awful things like cigarettes, why can’t we bring more talent like that from the dark side over to health advocacy? It would be great to see cities full of bright, creative, positive ads that inspire people to live healthier and more fulfilling lives. Of course, this is in my fully funded, magic utopia land where you can find PSAs on busses and benches and unicorns.
3) Beyonce Knowles as the best P.E. coach you never had
Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign was created to help stop childhood obesity. But instead of focusing on diets and numbers on the scale, the campaign promotes active and healthy lifestyles. This creates a more sustainable, personally motivating change. One innovative promotional tool was a choreographed fitness routine featuring Beyonce and company. Children learned this routine and performed it in schools as a flash mob, or a large synchronized event (sometimes including Beyonce herself!) But the fun didn’t stop there! A quick youtube search uncovers dozens of “Move Your Body” performers, both young and old alike. The choreography looks fun, Beyonce looks fun, the kids look fun, so that becomes contagious. Really, fun is one of the few contagions promoted by public health.
It would be great if more stars could use their persuasive public personas to promote great health messages to younger generations. Maybe different stars could do a few choreographed projects per year that kids could learn and perform at assemblies. Or maybe celebrities could spread their influence around a few other causes. Rihanna for influenza vaccinations! Neyo for calcium! Lady Gaga for bicycle helmets! All those Twilight people for sunscreen! The possibilities are endless!