Icons That Help Move People to New Behaviors

Environmental progress is based on people. People willing to do the right thing, to make a different choice, to try a new behavior. And that kind of sea change takes something more than regulations. It takes a shift that comes not just from the head but from the heart of millions of individuals, desiring a better life and a healthier environment.

Helping us make that leap into people’s hearts is The Ad Council, a non-profit organization that serves as the charitable arm for the advertising and media industry. The Ad Council recruits the best talent in the communications industry, who volunteer their expertise, to shine a spotlight on social issues in need of mass public action to make a measurable, positive change in society. Over its 60 year history, the Ad Council has created some of America’s best known public icons, including Smokey Bear and the Crying Indian.

As EPA celebrates its 40th Anniversary, it’s fitting that we join forces with the Ad Council to tackle another pressing social issue: Childhood Asthma. Since 2001, EPA has partnered with the Ad Council to highlight the growing problem of childhood asthma. Our goals are to reduce the severity and number of asthma attacks to reduce emergency room visits and improve school attendance.

In its first iteration, the national childhood asthma media campaign adopted a goldfish metaphor to explain that no child with asthma should feel like a fish out of water. The media has generously embraced this campaign donating more than $300 million spanning TV, radio, newspaper, magazine, billboard, and web in English, Spanish and in three Native American languages. The iconic goldfish leaves a powerful impression that stays with audiences—reporting an awareness of 33%–compared to the Ad Council norm of about 15%. This high awareness helps to shift behaviors as well—by prompting parents to go to the web or call a hotline to learn more. Tracking success, since the start of the campaign, some 20% of parents report trying a new behavior to help prevent their child’s asthma attacks.

Joining us this year, for a new round of public service television commercials, is one of America’s most prolific and renowned film directors, Joe Pytka. Think two eggs sizzling in a frying pan; think Superbowl, the iconic Clydesdales; and Michael Jordan in Space Jam. Known for his ability to fill the screen with emotional tugs, he reminds parents and caregivers– for a child with asthma, monsters can be lurking anywhere, even in innocent places inside their home. Take a look at this new media campaign.

About the Author: Kristy Miller leads the national asthma media campaign for EPA’s Air Office.

Another link to view the media campaign