Huge Anti-Smoking Billboard Highlights Challenge of Reaching Today’s Audiences

I learned about the latest strategy to reach all-too-blase audiences in a recent article in the Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal — a billboard sitting atop a a 24-foot cigarette extinguished in a 400-pound, seven-foot-deep ashtray that’s about as big as a merry-go-round. Paid for by the Minnesota Partnership for Action Against Tobacco (MPAAT), the billboard simply gives the name and toll-free number for MPAAT’s smoking-cessation program, QuitPlan.

What’s striking about this "bigger than life" tactic is that MPAAT has to go to such extremes (literally) to make an impact. It’s really no surprise. I’ve written often in this blog and in the Getting Attention e-newsletter about the changing level of audience receptiveness. As we are all innundated with images, words and sound coming from a wide range of media, we get more and more immune to what we’re taking in. Just self-preservation in a world of too much input.

But as a result, nonprofits (especially those tasked with social marketing, and aiming to change behavior) are having a tougher time than ever in cracking this shell. MPAAT paid $72,000 to rent the billboard space and another $46,000 to create the larger-than-life cigarette and ashtray.

While the billboard might seem over-the-top, the article cites that MPAATs executive say it’s necessary. A nonprofit organization, MPAAT is funded with 3 percent of the state’s 1998 tobacco-settlement money. That’s not very much money to compete with the whirlwind of messages consumers are hit with every day.

"Here’s the real challenge for us: There are still 700,000 smokers in Minnesota and we know 70 percent of those folks want to quit," said Andrea Mowery, director of external communications for MPAAT. "Our overall budget is about $2 million a year. That’s compared to all of the other advertising out there and the $274 million spent by tobacco companies in our state. … We’re us against a lot out there."

This is a tough fight we’re fighting.  What strategies has your nonprofit used to penetrate the shell around today’s audiences?

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Nancy Schwartz on December 12, 2005 in Branding and Messages, Nonprofit Communications, Unique Approaches | 0 comments
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