Friday, August 31, 2007

Let's go with the ads that don't work

That seems to be the direction the US Government gave advertising creatives after the politically connected formula companies got wind of a startling ad campaign designed to highlight the risks associated with not breast-feeding. According to this Washington Post article:

"Officials met with dozens of focus groups before concluding that the best way to influence mothers was to delineate in graphic terms the risks of not breast-feeding, an approach in keeping with edgy Ad Council campaigns on smoking, seat belts and drunken driving. For example, an ad portraying a nipple-tipped insulin bottle said, 'Babies who aren't breastfed are 40% more likely to suffer Type 1 diabetes.'

Gina Ciagne, the office's public affairs specialist for the campaign, said, 'We were ready to go with our risk-based campaign -- making breast-feeding a real public health issue -- when the formula companies learned about it and came in to complain. Before long, we were told we had to water things down, get rid of the hard-hitting ads and generally make sure we didn't somehow offend.'"

So instead of getting mothers to sit up and take notice (and potential raise our country's dismal breast-feeding rates (estimated to be 30 percent at 6 months), we're spending lots of taxpayer dollars on ads we know will be ineffective.

Now I can see how the images in the proposed campaign might make moms who have chosen to formula feed (or tried unsuccessfully to breast-feed) feel bad about their choices. But good, effective advertising is never milquetoast--it needs to grab attention and start conversations. It's sad (but not surprising) our current administration is kowtowing to industry lobbyists on issues of women and children's health.

Click here to see the proposed campaign and let me know what you think.

Cross-posted to Chicago Moms Blog