Advocacy Cause Marketing to Teens

This post is about teen sex (or abstinence therefrom), although this blogger is not talking about the sketchy MTV drama series Skins.

Instead this post is about an advocacy cause marketing campaign from The Candies Foundation, “a non-profit organization that works to shape the way youth in America think about teen pregnancy and parenthood.”

Candies, for whom the Foundation is named, is a teen fashion brand.

The Foundation is against teen pregnancy and advocates for both sexual abstinence and protected sex among teens, which is usually set as a dichotomy in the American culture. You can see how that plays out in this PSA from the Foundation featuring teen mom Bristol Palin, who campaigns for abstinence and Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino who says he is all about protected sex.

The Foundation’s campaigns run in teen magazines and youth electronic media. The ad above, from the Alden Keene Cause Marketing Database, ran in the May 31, 2010 issue of J14 magazine. That's Bristol Palin and son Tripp. Bristol, now 20, has been the Foundation’s primary spokesperson since 2009.

The PSAs and ads are celebrity heavy: Hayden Panettiere, Beyoncé, Vanessa Minnillo, Ashley Tisdale, Hilary Duff, Ashlee Simpson, Usher, and others. From my point of view the print ads work better than the video PSAs. One of the PSAs depict a teen boy and girl in a car rounding second and heading for home before being ironically interrupted by the realities and responsibilities of parenthood.

Seeing ads like that makes me wonder if they don’t have a counter-effect. I know of a former smoker, for instance, who can’t watch certain movies because the sexy way smoking is portrayed therein makes him crave the wicked weed again. One medical researcher’s study confirms in part that anecdote.

The Foundation’s website says that the campaigns have gotten remarkable attention. “Since its inception in 2001, Candie’s Foundation ads have been seen by millions of teens across America…Our ads have made more than 500 million media impressions in all major teen media outlets…”

Five hundred million media impressions is a very big number over the course of 10 years. Big enough that certain key staffers at the Foundation could parlay that into a pretty sweet job at a big ad agency.

But is the campaign effective?

Here’s what the website says:
“Our campaigns are making a difference. Research has shown that teen girls who have been exposed to the foundation and its messages are more likely to view teen pregnancy and parenthood as stressful and negative, and they are more likely to be skeptical of the media's portrayal of teen pregnancy and parenting. They also think teens should wait longer to have sex than girls who are not aware of the foundation and its messages.”
Ignore the grammatical strain that last sentence is under and concentrate on the claim being made: teen girls who have been exposed to the Foundation’s campaigns see the negatives of teen pregnancy and parenthood more so than teen girls who haven’t seen the campaigns.

Certainly I’m glad for that. But what I really wish the Foundation could claim is that teen girls who are exposed to the campaign are much less likely to get pregnant.

What do you think? Does this campaign work for you? What, if anything, would you change about it?

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