Case Study: Building an Online Youth Tobacco Control Movement

The Client
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Tobacco Control Program

The Challenge
To instill positive attitudes and social behaviors regarding tobacco-free living among Massachusetts youth by promoting and celebrating alternative, healthy lifestyles and activities.

The Strategy
The 84 Formative research found that although teenagers are explicitly aware of the health-related dangers of tobacco, a significant number each year succumb to tobacco use. This reality presents an opportunity to reposition the anti-tobacco advocacy dialogue from a traditional health awareness campaign to a more powerful "choice campaign" that resonates with teenagers. On behalf of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, HRiA developed a unique message and brand, as well as the campaign's central product, a peer-to-peer website.  Known as 'the 84' to celebrate the 84% of Massachusetts youth who refrain from tobacco use, the campaign aims to promote the social norm that most young people do not use tobacco while also focusing on alternative, positive activities for young people. The campaign features a community building website that reflects a youth driven voice and user-generated functionalities such as forums, user profiles, and a special-interest blog. "Offline" activities, such as visibility events in schools and a Digital Media Festival, serve to promote the 84's brand, attract more visitors to the website, and help young people affiliate with the 84's mission and goals.

The Impact
Since 2007, over 700,000 young people throughout Massachusetts have been involved with through online and offline activities including school-based visibility mini-grant campaigns, a Digital Media Contest, an Awards Festival, social networking via MySpace and YouTube, and other peer-to-peer activities. The 84 movement has grown year to year, with more young people affiliating themselves with the 84 and becoming advocates for healthy, tobacco-free communities.

The HRiA Advantage
HRiA brought to this challenge a unique combination of experience in youth development with expertise in youth media and branding. As a result, our efforts surpassed typical anti-smoking campaigns by creating a positive-based youth movement aimed at promoting a new social norm. Our choice to feature young people engaged in healthy, creative activities presented through an interactive platform developed a public health brand that was uniquely appealing to the client's target demographic. Critical to the success was our ability to collaborate among the many disciplines within HRiA, bringing to bear our collective bench strength in branding, messaging, web technology and social networking as well as youth leadership and community program development.