The Use of Outdoor Advertising to Promote Health Messages

  • Huneke, J.;
  • Vidlak, L. M.

In the summer of 1993, the Nebraska Department of Health's Harvest for a Lifetime! program used a total of nineteen billboards in fourteen rural communities to promote the message, "Wear the Right Stuff. Prevent Skin Cancer." Three different billboards, each bearing the same slogan, featured local people from the community wearing wide-brimmed hats, long-sleeved shirts and long pants. The billboards were placed near the hometowns of the people featured in the advertising and ran for at least ne month between June, July and August. The cost for placement was $3,500, with several of the billboards provided at no cost as a public service. The use of community members in the advertising prompted attention by other media as weekly and daily newspapers ran photos and stories about the campaign. Two hundred intercept interviews were conducted in August, 1993, to evaluate the level of awareness generated by the billboard campaign among the targeted audience.

In the winter of 1994, eleven billboards ran in ten different communities promoting the Harvest for a Lifetime! chewing tobacco cessation program. The boards featured a photo of an "anonymous" cowboy, the slogan "Ready to Quit Chew?" and a toll-free number for more information. Each billboard was up for at least two months between January, February and March, and coincided with public education sessions and other media advertising being conducted in the area. The total cost of billboard placement was $4,240.

Chewers calling the toll-free number received a free "Quit Kit" and information about public education programs in their area. To date, nearly 500 Quit Kits have been distributed, with about one-fourth of the callers mentioning the billboards as a source of information.

Initial evaluations of the two billboard campaigns have shown that paid outdoor advertising can be a valuable method of increasing community awareness of health messages. However, the advertising channel has several limitations and drawbacks that must be considered before investing health promotion dollars.

This research abstract was extracted from a portion of the proceedings of "Agricultural Safety and Health: Detection, Prevention and Intervention," a conference presented by the Ohio State University and the Ohio Department of Health, sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control/National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

L.M. Vidlak and J. Huneke, Nebraska Dept. of Health, Lincoln, NE.

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