Making Associations and Public Policy Persuasive
By Tom Dougherty
When faced with the challenges of welfare reform, Philadelphia utilized strategic advertising to change behavior. The brain trust at Stealing Share® helped develop the brand strategy for this effective campaign. The issues faced in this initiative are very similar to those faced by political parties (Democratic Party, Republican Party and the Libertarian Party) and organizations. Initially, the campaign merely encouraged welfare recipients to contact the welfare agency in order to learn more about their upcoming transition.
Firstly, the current welfare recipients failed to recognize that welfare was actually ending, so an apparent lack of urgency dominated the market. Secondly, the current recipients needed to be able to find adequate employment opportunities from the welfare agencies rather than merely making a phone call. In addition, authorities offered a tax incentive to any company that hired a welfare recipient.
Precepts. How do you influence decision makers?
However, we thought that this offer simply added to the concept of hiring a welfare mom as a form of charity. Preceptively the messaging had to affect the mindset of the employer as well as the welfare mom. We needed to convince employers that welfare moms were not lazy and unmotivated. It was necessary to suggest to employers that hiring welfare moms made great business sense because welfare moms are motivated employees. In order to give life to the character of welfare moms, we borrowed on the universal concept that it is dangerous to get between a mother bear and her cubs. The messaging emphasized how a mother will do anything to protect her children.
The resulting campaign encompassed two seperate campaigns. The first part of the campaign targeted welfare moms, telling them to be prepared to plan for their future without the help of welfare. The second part of the campaign focused on local businesses and highly recommended the hiring of welfare moms. Both messages took the form of stories told through the words of the children of the welfare moms. A local paper wrote of the campaign in this way: “The emotional ads, depicting children of welfare recipients, have attracted the attention of the U.S. Department of Labor, as well as other government officials around the country.
The Department of Labor is looking at Philadelphia’s campaign as a possible model for other cities, which have been slow to complement welfare reform programs with advertising campaigns. Philadelphia’s ad campaign supports the city’s welfare-to-work initiative known as The Greater Philadelphia Works Program, a $44 million program created to find jobs for 7,500 women during the next year.
Philadelphia is the first city in the state, and possibly the country, to implement an aggressive ad campaign around welfare reform, according to state and local officials. Milwaukee is the only other city with a campaign. ‘All eyes are on Philadelphia,’ says George Yanoshik Jr., a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, who was involved in the campaign. “This has trailblazing capabilities because of the size and demographics of the [welfare] market.”
The Results Were Astounding
The campaign includes television, print, bus, billboard and direct mail advertisements. It targets two audiences: welfare recipients who will be cut off from major welfare benefits in March 1999, but who have not taken the government threats seriously; and potential employers hesitant to hire welfare recipients because of the stereotype that people on welfare are lazy.
Nearly 26,500 adults—mostly women—who live in Philadelphia could lose benefits in March if they are not working at least 20 hours a week. The campaign uses children to reach both audiences. In ads targeting welfare recipients—who in Philadelphia are typically female and single mothers—racially diverse children encourage their mothers to begin looking for a job. “You can do it, mom,” reads the headline in the recent print ads appearing in the Daily News. The message, though blunt, does not paint a doom-and-gloom picture, but one of opportunity: “Welfare as we know it is ending. But we have jobs, we’ll help with interviews, job training, transportation and even child care, so you’ll not only get that job, but keep it.”
In ads that target employers, appearing in the Philadelphia Inquirer, children suggest that companies should hire welfare recipients because they have real responsibility. “How about my mom?” reads the headline in response to the text: “Need a hard worker? Moms coming off welfare are motivated, responsible employees. They have to be. Hire one today.” As a result of careful strategy and targeted messaging, this campaign was so successfully executed that it was adapted to run in multiple metropolitan markets all across the United States.
Welfare is ending :30
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