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Ad Council/EPA Childhood Asthma Campaign
OAR; Office of Radiation and Indoor Air -- Indoor Environments Division

Briefing Materials and Background on Campaign

During the last year EPA's Indoor Environments Division has been working closely with the Ad Council and volunteer ad agencies, N. W. Ayer of New York and Bromley of San Antonio, TX, to develop a childhood asthma media campaign. The campaign is a "Call to Action" to prevent asthma attacks. The national campaign includes PSAs for TV, radio, newspaper and transit in English and Spanish. The Ad Council will also be targeting high population inner-city markets, and displaying the "ads" on transit and bus shelters, and outdoor buildings.

The campaign's development phases included extensive research with parents of asthmatic children. Our research included a special emphasis on inner-city and Hispanic populations who had children than needed emergency care in hospitals within the last year. We tested several different creative concepts to determine which approach would most appeal to parents and motivate them to learn more about preventing asthma attacks.

The concept that tested the best across all populations is entitled "GoldFish." The GoldFish concept builds concern about the seriousness of asthma by showing a goldfish struggling out of water while the voices of children tell what it feels like to have an asthma attack. The prevention message is given and the dilemma is resolved when the goldfish jumps into the water and swims away accompanied by the message that even one asthma attack is one too many.

The GoldFish campaign messages and concept were tested extensively with English and Spanish speaking audiences in urban areas. The message of the TV public service announcement (PSA) is straightforward -- asthma is a serious disease, especially for children, and attacks can be prevented.

A hotline, 1-800-NO-ATTACKS, and web site HYPERLINK "http://www.noattacks.org" www.noattacks.org shown at the end of the PSAs, will distribute more specific indoor environmental triggers information created specially for this campaign. Callers will also have the option to talk to a person knowledgeable about the disease.

The Ad council is very enthusiastic about this campaign. The GoldFish campaign and N.W. Ayer were recently bestowed with the prestigious "Crain Award" which honors the most outstanding PSA campaign for the year.

Campaign Launch The Ad Council and EPA are launching the media campaign nationwide during the last 2 weeks of February 2001. Stations may start to broadcast the PSAs in February, however, most usage will begin after March. To generate support and air play for the PSAs, the Ad Council is developing a Video News Release (VNR) which will go to about 30 TV stations in cities across the country (a list of targeted cities is attached). This VNR is a pre-produced news story on asthma and indoor environmental triggers which stations can use to tailor a local story.

What is a Video News Release (VNR)?

It is a pre-produced news story that has a series of sound bites from various experts and video "B-Roll" that illustrates the asthma story. VNRs can be used in whole or part and are usually edited into a broader story with a local angle. National VNRs are very appealing to local stations because it gives them access to high ranking officials and experts in other geographic areas who are difficult for local stations to interview. The asthma VNR will contain an interview with EPA's newly appointed head Gov. Christine Todd Whitman along with some other national spokespersons.

VNRs are an effective way to get press coverage of a special issue and/or event (e.g., campaign launch). The VNR is sent to local stations and its use is promoted by telephone follow-up. VNRs are used by many stations because it saves them time and effort producing stories from scratch.

Local Spokespersons

Local TV stations are very interested in putting a local angle on the story. TV stations want spokespersons who are articulate and knowledgeable about local asthma issues. They are most likely to request an interview with an asthma doctor, a mother and child with asthma interviewed in their home, local health officials, and/or asthma experts.

Local stations have ultimate control over who they interview, how the story is told and when it's broadcast. There is no expiration date on the VNR and it may be used at any time by a station including several months after its distribution. Requests for interviews may not be immediate. It is possible that a station may wait several weeks or months to broadcast the story, therefore, interview request could come in the future.

In addition to the cities listed below, we're hopeful that the release of the media campaign will prompt news stories in many other cities as well. A local TV station will want spokespersons who are located within an easy driving distance from their station, usually less than 30 miles.

Cities targeted to receive Asthma VNR

New York City Indianapolis Houston Boston Denver San Antonio Hartford Omaha Orlando Chicago Salt Lake City Tampa Philadelphia Birmingham Miami Baltimore Atlanta Los Angeles Washington, DC Columbia, SC San Francisco Detroit Raleigh-Durham Sacramento St. Louis Charlotte Albuquerque Cincinnati Puerto Rico Milwaukee Norfolk