Did you know you can save lives through advertising?

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Measuring a campaign’s results is always something advertising pros are aware of in their day to day activities. When I think about the methods used to measure whether a client’s advertising methods are working, I start by examining the answers to two general questions.

  1. Has the company seen a boost in sales?
  2. Is the target audience more aware of the company’s brand?

Most advertisers would agree that these two questions are applicable to every campaign- whether it’s digital, traditional or social in nature.  However, a new trend in advertising seems to be emerging and its asking an entirely different question:

Are lives being saved?

Whoa. Seems a bit heavy, right?

For those of you who don’t know what I’m referencing, think of the commercial that opens with a shot of a young adult in the driver’s seat, laughing along with her friends- and then suddenly her phone notifies her of an incoming text message. She reaches for her phone and begins to respond to the text, when seemingly out of nowhere, she is hit by another car head on. These heart wrenching television ads are airing more frequently, and according to AdAge, AT&T has recently switched advertising agencies for their “It Can Wait” anti-texting and driving campaign because of it. Proprietary research conducted by AT&T showed that the campaign generated decent awareness, but what they were hoping for was to change behavior for teenage drivers.  It Can Wait

Upon learning this, I’m wondering if advertising campaigns are fairly measured. Should commercials really be expected to change people’s behaviors and ultimately save lives? Well, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the answer is “yes.”

Graphic advertisements featuring real testimonials from people living with smoking induced ailments (ie. loss of a limb, stomas, etc.) are a part of the first anti-tobacco advertising campaign ever funded by the government and the results have made an impact. A Fox News article published last September stated that “new research published in “The Lancet” medical journal suggests the first series of ads in the ‘Tips from Former Smokers’ campaign encouraged at least 100,000 smokers to quit successfully — twice the number CDC officials had expected.”

So it turns out advertising campaigns can be much more than a powerful tool to boost sales.  When the public’s behavior is positively changed and lives are saved due to educational advertisements, it shows the power of a great ad.  As an advertising professional, I applaud the government for standing behind these campaigns, and I hope we start to see significant changes with shock-inducing  anti-texting ads.

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