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  • Published on: 14th September 2019
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Historically, the use of public health campaigns has been increasingly successful. These campaigns have proven to be successful in affecting individuals in some way. Public health campaigns may be based on a variety of issues, such as anti-smoking, mental therapy, reduction of drug use, or even in support of physical health diseases like ALS. My goals for this study are to effectively compare and contrast two public health campaigns and to analyze their effectiveness individually. For the purpose of this analysis, I have selected and will be comparing two public health social media campaigns: Man Therapy, and The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.

In the midst of the 1980s, the nation was absorbed in the crack/cocaine epidemic, and a small group of advertising professionals came up with the idea that advertising could be used to unsell items in a similar way that things could be sold. In turn, they formed The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, which assists families and parents whose kids are struggling with substance abuse. By empowering them with the information support and guidance they need in order to help their loved one's needs and desires, as well as advocating for more effective programs to treat the disease of addiction (Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, 2018). They are able to impose these values through: connecting families both with each other and with experts through their Helpline, listening to families and provide a medium for them to share stories of struggle and success, encouraging parents to take early action in addressing substance abuse, as well as the implementation of evidence-based treatment options (Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, 2018).

Man Therapy is a public health campaign directed at working aged men (25-54 years old), who account for the largest number of suicide deaths in the U.S (Man Therapy 2018). These types of men are also very unlikely to receive any kind of support or treatment from friends, family, or even professionals. Due to this, these men are in desperate need of mental health treatment, or they may otherwise be subject to fatal consequences, as men are four times more likely than women to die from suicide (Man Therapy, 2018). Their main goals are to improve social norms around mental health among men and the general population, to increase help-seeking behavior among men for a variety of health and mental health issues, leading to an increase in men seeking available resources, and to reduce overall rates of suicide ideation and deaths among men (Man Therapy, 2018). Their key message is to show working aged men that it is masculine to both talk about and get help for themselves, in order to shape themselves into healthier individuals (Man Therapy, 2018).

Mass media campaigns can produce positive changes in health-related behaviors across large populations. Their level of effectiveness is measured by the number of people affected by the commercial divided by those unaffected. Studies of public health communication note that interaction is key at this level, signifying the difference between proper and improper styles of communication. Overall, public health messages are effective in changing health behavior, particularly to those subjects that viewers are susceptible to. Without public health campaigns, communication would be more generalized, and the influential basis of the campaigns wouldn't be received the same way. Wakefield, Loken, and Hornik found that the likelihood of success for these media campaigns to actually change health behavior increases when multiple interventions are utilized, and when the subject behavior is episodic as opposed to habitual. The authors also noted that pervasive marketing, the power of social norms, and the drive of addiction result in the infrequency of positive campaign outcomes (Wakefield et al., 2010).

Mass media campaigns are designed to be widely exposed, effectively reaching and potentially influencing a large audience. For example, anti-smoking ads highlight the risks of smoking and provide various benefits of quitting, directly pronouncing the tradeoffs in an attempt to inform viewers of the effects of smoking and influence them to stop. The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids adapts to this ideal, as their campaign ad highlights interviews with parents about their scary experiences with substance abuse in an attempt to raise awareness and create a negative background for substance abuse among children. It is evident that mass media campaigns differ in their purposes; some weaker claims provided from a campaign focused on maximizing reach and efficiency, whereas some stronger claims are generated from specific, meticulously planned experimental campaigns. This difference in potential purposes of health campaigns highlights the two styles of ads featured in this paper. Man Therapy appeals to all men, focusing on maximizing reach and efficiency/effectiveness. The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids favors stronger, more influential claims, highlighting a specific purpose and effectively putting in more time and effort to plan the campaign. Negative advertising is an effective way to encourage behavioral change through the intensification of the downsides or negative effects of a product or action (Apollonio, 2008). Both campaigns utilize this, as Man Therapy uses negative advertising to express how crucial it is to open up and look inward to solve your problems because if not dealt with, mental unhealthiness can kill. Before the introduction of online advertising, it was only possible to test public health campaigns through randomizing numbers of participants and examining a few outcome possibilities, effectively making it difficult to test which forms of advertisement are best suited for their respective purposes. Both campaigns utilize online advertising as a means of communicating their respective issues; in other words, their websites are at the heart of their organizational communication, as people must go to the website and utilize the resources in order to be affected and successfully adapt to the ideas within their campaigns. In theory, the identification strategies used within online advertisements can be used to refine, randomize, and test the targeting algorithms on different user types, allowing for easier individualistic targeting, based off of their characteristic internet-searches, shopping preferences, as well as email content (Yom-Tov et. Al. 2018). As a result, the two public health campaigns I selected could arise based off of how frequently people conduct internet searches relating to either issue. For example, If a man who is struggling with mental health issues looks up how to counteract them, the Man Therapy advertisement will have a higher likeliness to show up on their browser. This increase in targeting specificity allows for public health advertisements to target particular groups of people, focusing on specific characteristics of the individual in order to maintain a greater influence on their health awareness as well as their general well-being.

Man Therapy’s video on their 2017 case study serves as an introduction to the services they provide and how and for who they provide them for, signifying their intended audience of males age 25-54 years old. The effort was originally focused in Colorado, later sparking discussion of men’s mental health across the U.S. For the first five years, the initiative focused on the cause of suicide in Colorado, later expanding to the extent of the U.S. Due to the fact that men are also very composed and uncomfortable sharing their emotions, they are unlikely to seek out and receive any kind of support or treatment from friends, family, or even professionals. Man Therapy’s key message is to show working aged men that it is masculine to both talk about and get help for themselves and that it is necessary for shaping themselves into healthier individuals. In order to capture men's attention in an area where they tend to have a pre-conceived disinterest, Dr. Rich Mahogany employs light humor within his lessons which effectively encourage men to take an interest. Dr. Mahogany says that, "Man Therapy is a place where men can come to be men, so here, we won't be complaining, whining or moping about; we'll be getting off our keisters and form tackling feelings like stress, anger, sadness, substance abuse, and suicidal thoughts head on." This quote serves as an example of how this campaign is directly targeting men for their program. Much unlike other ad campaigns, Man Therapy utilizes its website as its prime influence, as Mahogany's office is transformed into an interactive tool where real-time therapy occurs. Creating awareness for the site is essential, and in order to gain a larger client base, they have implemented humorous ads directed at men on areas we frequent, such as bars, bathrooms, sporting events, and viral social media content. Dr. Mahogany reaches out to those who may be in the midst of a serious life problem, such as divorce, depression, and suicidal thoughts, and questions the idea that men should be able to receive help for these kinds of issues too, creating a larger reach among men. To help spread the word, Man Therapy has created kits for influencers and media outlets across the U.S, effectively creating a viral background for the company. Due to the increase in national demand, Man Therapy created more assets and social media content to help feed the frenzy, including Dr. Rich's mahogany ale, tools for military and first responder influence, as well as kits for care providers. All these tools serve as advertisements in themselves, as each kit and poster is all tied to the effort in some way, and effectively spreads the word through high levels of influence, especially by those who experience secondhand influence from other men who utilize the tools on the website. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XxOAS339aLE

The Partnership for Drug-Free kids’ ad campaign video serves as a mean for spreading awareness about substance abuse among kids, as well as provides support and guidance to families who struggle with some sort of substance abuse. Their ad begins by introducing the fact that over 20 million Americans suffer from some form of substance abuse. This is effective in showing people that substance abuse isn't an uncommon issue and that they are not alone in what they may be going through. This commonality aims to bring people both together with one another, as well as with the website and the tools they provide. The video then transforms into a series of interview sessions with parents of children struggling with substance abuse. These parents discuss "horror stories" of their previously substance abusive kids and how their changing habits can be a precursor to addiction. A few of these habits were exemplified by the parents, highlighting a decline in schoolwork, changing clothing styles and friends, being moody and argumentative, and seeing the parent as the enemy all have proven to be potential effects of substance abuse. The video then goes on to explain that ninety percent of addictions start in the teen years, and that addiction affects families of every class, race, and religion, and community, highlighting the fact that all people are at risk of addiction. The ad highlights confidentiality, as most parents struggling with the issue really don’t have anyone to confide in, either due to trust, embarrassment or simply because they think the issue isn’t as serious as it actually may be. The Partnership provides these families a place to turn to or to an expert who will listen and help the families through a situation like this. The video then approaches a section about two minutes in, which involves a variety of parents breaking down and showing their true feelings of sadness and helplessness in relation to addiction. This goes to show that teenage addiction is a serious issue that many people may come across at some point in their lives. Negative advertising is utilized throughout the video, highlighting the negative effects and costs of addiction; “Over 64,000 lives are lost to addiction each year.” As the video progresses, parents discuss treatment options and how difficult a problem it may be to effectively treat. The Partnership then explains how their trained counselors offer support and provide guidance to afflicted families and help them navigate the treatment system, in order to find out what suits each family's needs the most. Parents push for early detection and encourage viewers to talk to their kids and form connections with them, so they can get the help they need. Towards the end of the video, parents discuss their feelings about the Partnership and explain how the program has assisted in fostering their improved relationships with their kids as well as their overall happiness about their well-being. As the ad comes to a close, the Partnership stresses their empowerment of afflicted families, as well as their available tools for help, such as guides and e-books, videos, parent coaching, parents helpline, online resources, and communal education. In the last part of the video, everything fades to black except the word "Hope", suggesting that their main message is in giving addiction-ridden families hope or a place to turn to when in need. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FELhl6gsLd4

When it comes to developing an effective public health campaign video, there can be many hindrances to success, such as the improper style of communication, lack of awareness, lack of significance to the viewer, etc. Through the research done for this paper, I have found that both the Man Therapy campaign and the Partnership for Drug-Free kids utilize negative advertising, as Man Therapy uses it to express how crucial it is to open up and look inward to solve your problems, because if not dealt with, mental unhealthiness can kill; The Partnership utilizes negative advertising through voicing parental concern and highlighting the negative effects related to substance abuse. For both campaigns, their respective websites are at the heart of their organizational communication, as people must go to the website and utilize the resources in order to be affected and successfully adapt to the ideas within their campaigns. As a result of this, the two public health campaigns I selected could arise based off of how frequently people conduct internet searches relating to either issue or concern. Overall, both campaigns are effective in utilizing the tools at their disposal to better treat individuals both mentally and physically, and in turn, goes to show that these two campaigns are effective in their respective missions, and although these campaigns are directed at completely different issues, they still share commonality within the construction of their public health campaigns.

Works Cited

Apollonio, D. E., and R. E. Malone. “Turning Negative into Positive: Public Health Mass Media Campaigns and Negative Advertising | Health Education Research | Oxford Academic.”

OUP Academic, Oxford University Press, 23 Nov. 2008,

“FFH Is Proud to Support: Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.” Focus for Health, 2 Nov. 2018,

www.focusforhealth.org/ffh-proud-support-partnership-drug-free-kids/.

“Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.” Where Families Find Answers on Substance Use | Partnership

for Drug-Free Kids, 2018, drugfree.org/article/what-we-do/.

Spencer-Thomas, Sally, et al. “Man TherapyTM: Outreach and Impact on Men’s Mental Health

Program 18 Months After Launch.” Man Therapy , 10 Mar. 2014,

mantherapy.org/pdf/White-Paper-Man-Therapy.pdf.

Spencer-Thomas, Sally, et al. “See the New Man Therapy.” Man Therapy, 2018

mantherapy.org/about.

Wakefield, Melanie A., et al. “Use of Mass Media Campaigns to Change Health Behavior.” Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 9 Oct. 2010, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4248563/.

Yom-Tov, Elad, et al. “The Effectiveness of Public Health Advertisements to Promote Health: a

Randomized-Controlled Trial on 794,000 Participants.” Nature News, Nature Publishing Group, 27 June 2018, www.nature.com/articles/s41746-018-0031-7.

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