Researchers Assist in Public Health Advertising Campaign

Research Area: 

Research by the Annenberg School for Communication’s Center of Excellence in Cancer Communication Research (CECCR) and the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) is at the core of a public health advertising campaign underway in the Philadelphia media market.

As part of its “Get Healthy Philly” initiative, the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Public Health is running a multi-media public health awareness campaign that targets smoking and childhood obesity.

Developed by the Neiman Group advertising agency, with offices in Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Penn (working with Philadelphia minority-owned agencies Brown Partners, Cardenas-Grant, and Mendoza Group to produce ads targeting the African American and Latino audiences), the sugary drink ads ask parents and/or caregivers, “Do you know what your kids are drinking?” The smoking ads focus on the 300,000 smokers in Philadelphia who are struggling to kick the habit. Both pieces of creative relied on input from Annenberg researchers. Radio, TV, and transit versions of the advertisements are part of the campaign, which runs through March 2012.

“We conducted formative research with more than 500 Philadelphia caregivers in order to help the city and the Neiman Group develop a theoretically-driven and evidence-based campaign,” said Amy Jordan, Ph.D., Director of the Media and the Developing Child sector of the Annenberg Public Policy Center.  “Both children and adults drink, on average, two servings of sugary beverages a day. The research findings indicate that one way to address Philadelphia’s high rates of childhood obesity may be to make parents more aware of what children are drinking, and help them recognize that obesity has very real health consequences,” Dr. Jordan added that her team will test the actual campaign messages to see how they are received by audiences, with additional emphasis on whether they increase intention to reduce sugary drink consumption.

“The city’s goal with the anti-tobacco media campaign is to encourage Philadelphia adults (over 30 years old) to use quit aids to help them quit smoking for good,” said Laura Gibson, Ph.D., a CECCR researcher who worked on the project.  “We conducted formative research with 500 Philadelphia adult smokers to get an idea of what beliefs are largely associated with intentions to use help when trying to quit smoking and what beliefs are not already held by the entire population.  On the basis of this research, we encouraged Neiman Group to develop ads focusing on “quitting is easier with help.”  We then tested four sets of concepts (in TV, radio, and transit format) that were designed to capture that persuasive message.” Dr. Gibson says CECCR will, in the coming months, track Philadelphia smokers’ exposure to these ads, their beliefs about using help to quit smoking, and their actual use of quit aids.  “Additionally we will continue to test and provide feedback on additional radio ads that will be developed for African-American and Latino radio stations,” she said.  

“We believe it is essential that we use a research-based approach to developing messages and evaluating their effectiveness,” said Amy Muntz, Vice President of Strategy and Insights at the Neiman Group. “The foundational research conducted by the Annenberg teams was critical in identifying and prioritizing target audiences and messaging strategies prior to creative development. By exposing potential advertising messages to our target population we were able to both validate and refine our approach. The Annenberg research team gave both Neiman Group and PDPH confidence that we were deploying impactful and effective messages.”

In addition to the advertisements, there are websites devoted to each initiative that were developed by PDPH: and

See the story that ran on WHYY on January 17 here.