Tuesday, May 30, 2006

And Now for a Word from Our Sponsor

A recent Los Angeles Times story, "L.A. Doubles for Iraq as Bomb Site," describes the making of an unusual public service announcement.

Flying bodies and booming pyrotechnics turned the warehouse district east of downtown Los Angeles into a make-believe killing ground Saturday, with the filming of an unusual public service ad for Iraqi TV meant to discourage suicide bombings.

About 200 actors and extras took part in the filming at 8th and Kohler streets, transformed by Arabic banners and crowded stalls into a busy Baghdad market.

Suddenly, a fireball and a tableau of hysteria and carnage: A stuntman was blown onto the hood of a passing car. A woman wearing a head scarf, wired to an overhead crane, was jerked into the air, her body and her baby's stroller flying in opposite directions.

Designed to simulate the impact of suicide attacks on innocent civilians, the commercial is the work of EFX Films, based in Beirut, and 900 Frames, a Los Angeles production company that takes its name from the amount of film it takes to make a 30-second commercial.

This group has also teamed up with the Future Iraq Assembly, which has -- according to the Times -- "a series of professional and expensive-looking ads" featured there, although the site was "under construction" when I checked.

I learned about this surreal exercise in fabricated dystopia from Spare Change, a social marketing blog that covers some of the weirder aspects of this cultural phenomenon. This site is sponsored by Nedra Weinreich, who runs a social marketing consulting firm. Luckily, Weinreich seems to have retained her sense of humor and maintains a blog with an "indie" voice.

Under the category of "How NOT to Appeal to Kids" I learned about the regrettable online FEMA rap (which Weinreich says you can use to "kick it at school assemblies or bar mitzvahs"). I also found out about the new nonsmoking campaign for kids from The Truth campaign, Whudafxup?, which got mixed reviews from my thirteen-year-old (okay stencil-graphics design, funny clips, but lame online games and "news"). For more about do's and don'ts for social marketing to kids see my smackdown of the genre at "No Such Thing As Bad Publicity?".

Weinreich introduced me to some other subversive social marketing blogs. I liked the very continental Houtlust and Selfish Giving from a self-described "cause marketer" in Boston. She also compiled interesting examples of Social Marketing in Second Life, an online role-playing environment that has fostered many political and commercial communities.

Check out "What's So Bad About Social Marketing?" for the skeptical Virtualpolitik take on the social marketing subject.

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Blogger Nedra Weinreich said...

Hi Liz,
Thanks for the plug. I'm glad you think I have a sense of humor, even if I AM a social marketer. :-)

I think in your skeptical take on social marketing from your previous posting, you're right to be wary of the inherent conflict of ad agencies who have been promoting unhealthy products who are now creating campaigns to counter those effects. But there are a lot of us social marketers who come from the public health/issue advocacy side of things, who involve the people we want to help in the development of the campaign, and who use the same effective tools as commercial marketers but not for our own profit.

I would disagree with your emphasis, though, on information legibility/literacy as the best way to bring about change. Using your example of smoking, everyone by now knows exactly what the long-term effects of smoking are, and kids today can probably rattle off 10 different poisons that are found in cigarettes. And yet they continue to start smoking. Even many doctors smoke. Is it because they don't have enough information about how harmful it is? Information/education is usually necessary, but not sufficient to bring about behavior change. Often, we need to go beyond promoting the rational reasons why people should do something, to connect with their core values that determine what they actually do rather than what they know they should do.

1:54 AM  

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