Awareness campaign accomplishments

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Kristina Wyman's picture
Caroline Critelli

Awareness campaigns are those ads that make you uncomfortable–the posters that speak out on certain topics like smoking, climate change and abuse. A lot of them are hard to hard to look at and often send a chill down your spine.

However, whether or not awareness campaigns actually make a difference and cause things to change for the better is definitely up for debate. Even though awareness campaigns are created with the best of intentions, it’s easy for people to look at them, feel bad for a little bit and then continue with their day. I know I do that all the time; I’m very good at disconnecting.

One good example would be a certain family member of mine. They have been smoking for most of their life, and I have spent countless hours trying to convince them to stop. When I was little, I would ask them to quit for my birthday—I know that’s very bleak—and now, I show them these types of posters in an attempt to scare them into quitting.

None of these efforts have worked. Putting a scary image in a magazine, website or on television isn’t going to stop someone from getting rid of a habit they’ve had for years or even convince people to speak out for a cause that they normally don’t think about.

Now, I’m sure there’s a very small group of people who have been affected by these campaigns. People who have been so moved by them that they actually made a positive change in their lives. That’s the thing about these campaigns: they are aimed towards individuals, not a large group of people. Individuals are a much more difficult audience to reach than a group of people because when you’re by yourself, it’s easy to look at one of these ads, think “that sucks,” then continue with your life.

There are certain awareness campaigns that I think do attract decent amount of attention and cause some change. Ones that actually tell you to do something, like get a flu shot or donate money, are a lot better than ones that are just stating that something’s bad. Giving people something that they can actually do about an issue is more helpful than relaying the fact that it’s bad. Yes, smoking is bad; I’m aware. But put a sad picture of a puppy with an address to send money, and stuff’s going to actually get done.

There is certainly nothing negative that comes out of awareness campaigns, except maybe some very traumatized people, but that’s pretty minor. There are just types of these campaigns that work better than others. But of course, awareness campaigns that just freak people out are better than nothing.

Even though they might not directly cause things to get done for the issue at hand, at least they are placing these ideas in people’s minds for a little bit. And that’s the whole point of them: to raise awareness. If there isn’t an actual result that comes out of them besides people becoming more mindful on life issues, it’s not really a big deal. Some ads are just meant to shock people, and that’s enough.

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