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A Wake Up Call to Omaha

image for spotlight_0Omaha ranks 142nd out of 182 U.S. cities based on five indicators measured by the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS): tobacco use, alcohol use, obesity, physical activity and consumption of fruits and vegetables. How did Omaha start the conversation about active living and healthy eating? Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities (HKHC) partners and other collaborators crafted an advertising campaign that called attention to Omaha’s low health ranking through some lighthearted competition. “The concept was to call attention to Omaha’s health ranking and to provide a wake-up call,” says Celann LaGreca of Blue Cross and Blue Shield Nebraska. Using Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) funds and working with their existing broad-based partnership, the campaign has started a city-wide buzz about its health.

The Right Message
LaGreca explains that the advertisements (view two of the TV ads here and here) were scripted with even more shock and awe, but, as she explained, “There is a fine line between providing a wake-up call and offending people.” The creative team working on the ads learned what worked and what didn’t through testing the messages with multiple focus groups.  These groups were divided by audience segment and represented a diversity of opinions and backgrounds.  Most importantly, the focus groups started a dialogue among participants. The scripts for the ads were modified based on what was said in the focus groups.

The first campaign included a media mix of TV, print, billboard and bus ads and ran September 2010 through February 2011. The second campaign, scheduled to roll out in fall 2011, will also go through a series of focus groups to test messages. The next phase is intended to be a “call to action” to Omaha residents to advocate for changes that would make Omaha a healthier community. In the meantime, the bus signs and billboards are keeping the Live Well brand alive, and reminding Omahans that they still have a long way to go!

On the one year anniversary of the CPPW grant roll-out there was a rally at City Hall. LaGreca says it was clear the message was resonating with people; living in the 142nd healthiest city was something they were interested in changing. In fact, this campaign really provided branding for the entire CPPW project and created a buzz in the community. Campaign creators are hopeful that the campaign will increase residents’ awareness of health and increase their willingness to make lifestyle changes, as well as advocate for policy and environmental change.

Lessons Learned
Although the campaign has been well-received, LaGreca shared several important lessons learned for others interested in starting a similar campaign. First, message testing is important. Many of the jokes and puns in the original ads did not translate well to Spanish, so those scripts had to be modified or left out. Second, collaboration is key. Although testing messages and organizing focus groups can be time-intensive and expensive, working together with partners allowed focus groups to be organized easily by reaching into extended social networks. In addition, partners who have been competitors in the past are coming together to support this project. She says, “People are in it for the mission and the common good – there is great collaboration!” This solid base of cooperation, combined with the extensive community input received on the campaign, make the ads that much more compelling and meaningful to many Omahans.

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August, 2011