Advertising That Makes a Difference

We Helped Move the Needle for Kids’ Oral Health in Colorado

Ever wonder what Colorado kids suffer most from? The answer may surprise you. Tooth decay is the #1 chronic disease of childhood and a leading reason for ER visits. According to State of Colorado child oral health statistics, 40% of kindergartners and 55% of third-graders have tooth decay. This epidemic hits Hispanic children and kids from low-income families especially hard even though it is largely preventable.

That’s where our client, Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation, comes in. A few years ago, the Foundation shared a vision of eradicating tooth decay among Colorado’s children. Our work has been deeply rooted in research and data from a variety of topics and sources such as:

  • Medical and dental professions
  • Statewide Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System data
  • Public will building and behavior change best practices
  • In-depth target audience research
  • Concept and message testing

The resulting “Cavities Get Around” campaign initially focused on raising awareness of the impacts of juice and other sugary drinks on child oral health. Over time, the campaign broadened to include community organizing, Promatores and police change. Extensive target audience research informed campaign messaging and strategy. Notably, the campaign’s key messages:

  • Baby teeth matter because cavities can spread to adult teeth
  • Sugar fuels bacteria that cause cavities
  • Drinking water only between meals and at bedtime protects kids’ teeth

The fully integrated campaign aired on broadcast television and radio, along with outdoor, digital media and an interactive website. Social media, grassroots events and earned media strategies deployed to expand the reach of the campaign and engage with our target audience. Final creative executions of the campaign included a sugar troll-themed TV spot and a series of videos exposing the amount of sugar in juice. The campaign also benefitted from dynamic and passionate partners who worked tirelessly to spread the messages.


And the results are in…

A random-digit dial phone survey of 600 low-income, English- and Spanish-speaking families across Colorado recently revealed significant progress toward our goals. First of all, the campaign messages are being heard­–an astounding 39% of respondents recalled the campaign. (Not to brag or anything, but that’s similar to national car brands who have a whole lot more media, money, partners, time in market, etc.) And most of all, our key messages are gaining traction. Compared to our baseline survey:

  • Watershed Moment. More kids are drinking tap water, which helps prevent tooth decay when fluoridated. 63% of respondents said their children regularly drink tap water, a 22-percentage point increase from 2014.
  • Juice Myth Debunked.Those who felt ‘juice was important to their child’s health and nutrition’ fell 29 points to 43%, compared to 72% in 2014.
  • Another Sweet Learning? Juice consumption among children is down 19 percentage points from 66% in 2014 to 47% today.
  • Baby Teeth Matter More. The percentage of parents who consider baby teeth to be “less important” than adult teeth declined by 28. And 71% of respondents knew that cavities in baby teeth can spread.

Inspired by the promise of these results, we will continue our efforts to improve the oral health of the smallest Coloradans and give our clients, partners and the community something big to smile about.

How Social and Behavioral Sciences Drive Response

NPR’s recent piece, How Small Changes Can Yield Big Results For The Government, caught my attention yesterday.

Social and behavioral scientists at the White House conducted extensive tests and experiments to drive improved participation in several government programs. What’s fascinating for us marketers is that this really boils down to improving response rates to various email and direct mail campaigns. They were mining behavioral insights that could be applied in their communications. Their challenge may sound familiar to you: how to break down barriers to engagement.

We marketers constantly strive to establish, track and improve the performance of our campaigns and this piece offers several interesting findings that may well apply to other sectors outside of government. Among the findings based upon behavioral insights:

Response rates to direct mail increased 22% with these minor tweaks:

Clearly defined, called-out action steps. Think, “Step 1, Step 2, Step 3,” in large, bold or color type.

Putting important info in the “P.S.” Apparently this is the second spot that our eyes track.

Open rates for email surveys improved significantly when:

Sent around lunchtime on Tuesdays and Wednesdays

Varying the subject lines

More cost-effective operations may be achieved when:

A personal appointment time with a call center is included

A dialog box prompts workers to change their print settings to double-sided

The full Social and Behavioral Sciences Team annual report was just published and can be found here.

Although these findings may smack of best practices that we think we already know, they demonstrate the importance of understanding how people make decisions and act on them. And, if we are in the business of generating results, this should matter a great deal.





Driving Behavior Change

How can we know that lasting change has been achieved by a campaign? Time, continual market research and again, time.

By their very nature, behavior change campaigns typically span a long period of time because changing a person’s habits in an enduring way requires years not weeks.

Market research not only provides a benchmark when creating behavior change campaigns, it also serves as an effective tool to measure campaign effectiveness along the way.

If the behavior change continuum offers a road map of the various stages leading to the ultimate destination, then research represents the gas station that fuels campaign development.

In most cases, a baseline survey gives us the starting points for each of the phases (awareness, interest, knowledge, trial, adoption) as well as the benchmark for actual behavior at a point in time. Other research activities can shed light on knowledge gaps, key messages and emotional connections. For example, in developing messaging for our Delta Dental campaign, we knew that many parents simply didn’t think baby teeth mattered. In focus groups, we uncovered the key to changing this belief: cavities spread from baby teeth to adult teeth. Once participants were exposed to this fact, their attitudes towards baby teeth shifted immediately, and we found the engine for our messaging.

In our research for the Colorado Advisory Council for Persons with Disabilities, we set out to explain the rampant abuse of disabled parking spots. Overwhelmingly, survey respondents claimed, “I never do it.” When the facilitator admitted to doing the deed, the respondents felt more at ease. Suddenly the floodgates opened with confessions and excuses. These conversations paved the way to effective messaging and a campaign tone that resonated with real people in their daily routines.

By checking in with your audience periodically, listening attentively and probing for deeper insights, you can fine-tune your campaign as you go, stepping more confidently on the accelerator towards the end goal at every turn.