Multi-channel ad campaign galvanizes youth to get mumps vaccination

Marlene Hore acknowledges that promoting the need for H1N1 vaccinations was a big challenge. But it was even tougher to encourage a group of youth to get vaccinated for a disease they didn’t consider threatening.

Mumps didn’t affect as many Ontarians as the swine flu pandemic, but a sudden 2007 breakout hit 18 to 24 year-olds across Canada.

That age group had received just one vaccination against the disease. A public awareness campaign was on, and the creative director of Partners and Edell was asked to help get youth’s attention. Toronto-based Partners and Edell is a marketing agency specializing in healthcare issues.

“They believe they’re immortal and don’t listen to authority,” Hore says of the age group. “If they think about mumps at all, they think about it as a kids disease.”

To breakthrough those barriers, the agency organized a multi-channel integrated advertising campaign focused on a single idea. Radio ads, viral videos, TV spots, online banner ads, a Facebook page, a Twitter account and of course, a Web site — all these warned college and university students they risked nine full days of isolation if they contracted mumps.

“Two whole weekends without any socializing at all,” Hore says. “That was worse than any needle.”

Hore addressed a crowd attending Toronto’s Advertising Week Jan. 26.

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Multi-channel advertising is nothing new.

Jaws is often credited with being the first major movie to market itself using toys available at fast food chains. Companies have long created both radio and TV ads, or magazine and newspaper ads. The concept is a well-established technique in the advertising industry, thought to be effective at boosting brand awareness.

But the digital age has brought a new flavour to the strategy. Being able to recognize a person and what they might have done before, in addition to the ability of devices to communicate with one another, opens up new doors, industry insiders say.

It’s breaking down walls between media and allowing campaigns to flow seamlessly across devices, notes Jason Dailey, country lead for solution specialist sales, Microsoft Advertising Canada.

“The digital canvas is really powered by connected experiences,” he says. “It makes sense for any kind of campaign, especially when you have a campaign that is more branding focused.”

Packaging multi-channel campaigns means pointing the audience in the right direction, Dailey adds. Nudge them towards the next step.

“Connect the dots for people so it’s easy for them to see where they need to go.”

The mumps vaccination campaign spots were all linked thematically — if you get mumps, you become a social outcast. Facebook badges featured slogans such as “I’m too pretty to get the mumps,” and “I’m too important to get the mumps.”

A particularly risqué TV commercial features young hockey players in a locker room. They are horrified when a teammate drops his pants and reveals the effects of mumps in his nether regions. The shocked players offer interesting comments about the visual.

That TV spot, and all other spots, pointed students to the Web site. There, they learned where to get vaccinated. They were also warned about the serious effects of mumps on an adult, including the risk of encephalitis.

The campaign also created an “army” of 200 campus ambassadors on 47 different campuses to engage students directly. They spoke at classes and directed fellow students to clinics. In common areas, students would stand in a giant plastic ball, emphasizing the risk of quarantine.

The effectiveness of a multi-channel campaign is driven by exposure. There is simply a better chance of getting your message in front of more eyeballs, Dailey says.

“The whole idea of the cross-platform execution and campaign is really trying to solve the problem that you’re not going to reach a person at every touch point,” he says. “People are doing different things, some people are online, some are watching TV, some are focused on their mobile phone.”

For companies just starting out in the multi-channel marketing game, keep it simple, Dailey advises. Try integrating a search results campaign into your next advertising purchase. Or if you’re a small business that serves a local area, use mobile advertising to tap into that market.

In Ontario, the mumps campaign proved effective amongst youth. Measurements on social media sites included 69,000 video views, and 1,100 Facebook fans over an eight week period. The edgy campaign also generated a lot of news coverage, featured in every newspaper across the province.

Looking at a photo of students lined up at a campus clinic to get vaccinated, Hore comments:

“It’s hard to believe they’re lined up to get a needle and not a beer,” she says. “30,000 shots in arms, that’s the best reward of all.”

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