This post is a summary of a report written by The Vida Agency in October 2020 about their work to create a public awareness and counter-marketing campaign for the community, by the community, using revenues from the City of Seattle’s Sweetened Beverage Tax. Read the full report with additional information, data, quotes, and examples of campaign materials.
The “Be Ready. Be Hydrated.” campaign ran from July 15 – September 15, 2020. The bilingual public awareness and counter-marketing campaign received nearly 5.9 million impressions, a dozen media placements and grassroots support from Black and Brown communities across the City.
In January 2020, The Vida Agency and our Coalition partners envisioned a year of being in community. We planned a performance arts-based and health-oriented tour of local community centers, high schools, community colleges, libraries, and after school programs – all to hear from local Seattle-area youth about how they relate to, consume, and feel about sugary beverages. In fact, we had even geared up to take young people in our priority population on walking tours through Seattle neighborhoods to get a real time understanding of how sugary beverage companies marketed to them. Our reality was far different than what we envisioned. Our first and last opportunity to engage with young people and with Coalition members in person was our February 2020 Youth Coalition Kick-Off Event.
On February 29, 2020, Governor Jay Inslee proclaimed a State of Emergency for all counties throughout the state of Washington as a result of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Several weeks later, in March, he issued the “Stay Home – Stay Healthy” proclamation. On May 25, officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man. In the following weeks and months, the country reckoned with an uprising in attention and urgency to deliver social justice and racial equity. These events shed light on the ongoing trauma faced by Black and Brown community members who were our partners in this work.
In September, students resumed school behind computer screens. Wildfires raging through California brought smoke and haze to the Pacific Northwest. Our ability to safely gather, to be in community, and to breathe easily was challenged month after month.
The factors that marked 2020 drastically impacted our campaign and at times those doing this work struggled under its weight. While we envisioned spending time in and with community, we ended up bonding and collaborating through computer screens. We imagined public murals and spreading awareness at three-on-three basketball tournaments through the summer. Instead, we built a campaign that could be implemented mainly through virtual tactics. We also distributed campaign swag at food banks, socially distanced high school orientations, protests, and community organizing meetings.
HARNESSING DIGITAL TACTICS
To safely and effectively share our positive campaign message, we were able to tap into the promises of digital ads which reign supreme in 2020. Over a two-month period we received nearly 5.9 million impressions of the “Be Ready. Be Hydrated.” campaign.
Beyond the views on campaign ads, nearly 14,000 clicks that directed people to the project website demonstrated the engagement and relevance of campaign messaging and creative assets. Of all the tactics, social media ads that directly targeted our high priority audience saw especially high numbers.
TikTok ads received over 500,000 impressions and more than 3,500 clicks resulting in a 0.72% click-through-rate (CTR).
Snapchat delivered just under 500,000 impressions and nearly 3,000 clicks.
Facebook and Instagram were used for a portion of the campaign and similarly performed well. To practice our values of equity and anti-racism, our Coalition decided to divest the “Be Ready. Be Hydrated.” campaign from both platforms for 30-days in response to the Stop Hate for Profit initiative.
Overall, “Be Ready. Be Hydrated.” was not only seen, but it was proved relevant through the engagement by the priority audience.
PARTNERING WITH ETHNIC AND COMMUNITY MEDIA
The Vida Agency was intentional about investing campaign resources locally and across a variety of platforms, from social media tools to podcast, from TV to radio. The following partners became proud champions and believers of the campaign and the results from their reach is what we hope maintains the message of #drinkwater and #BeReadyBeHydrated.
- Converge Media
- King 5
- King 5 Evening News
- Runta Somali/African News
- Rainier Avenue Radio
- La Radio de Seattle, Bustos Media
- South Seattle Emerald
- The Evergrey
- The Glow Up Podcast
- Miss Casey Carter’s Tea of the Week
- Univision Seattle
WORKING IN AND WITH COMMUNITY
High priority for the “Be Ready. Be Hydrated.” campaign team was to make sure that our priority population saw their campaign in the streets as much as they would on SnapChat, TikTok, and other digital spaces. We ensured our campaign was on the ground, within our community, and supporting our community. This took place during a summer marked by racial injustices that directly impacted our priority population.
We partnered with the City of Seattle Parks and Recreation to host their annual—and first virtual—Big Day of Play. Event participants received campaign stickers and learned about the importance of choosing water over sugary beverages.
Coalition members joined staff at Rainier Beach High School (RBHS) to welcome their incoming Freshman class. Assistant Principal Brooks was excited to create a “cohort” of water drinkers. By distributing reusable water bottles to the incoming class—who would be among the first to use newly-installed bottle-filling stations—the “Be Ready. Be Hydrated.” campaign helped create a culture of choosing water over sugary beverages. We also worked with the Office of Sustainability (OSE) and Environment to provide “Be Ready. Be Hydrated.” campaign stickers for the refilling stations. The Vida Agency also facilitated a conversation with OSE and RBHS to ensure the refilling stations were installed in locations that would best serve the student population.
Black Stax distributed water bottles at protests and to the bike brigade.
Hip Hop is Green distributed water bottles and campaign swag through their plant-based food box distribution program.
Latino Community Fund (LCF) included education about hydration—and the dishonest marketing tactics used by sugary beverage companies—to inform their Alianza Youth program. Staff at LCF reported a notable shift in culture, saying they saw youth participants bringing reusable water bottles to virtual sessions instead of the juices they typically used to drink.
The Service Board went to Baker Beach and Pritchard Beach. There, they dropped off a box of bottles, fliers and stickers to be given out to young people in the community. They also worked with the West Seattle Farmers Market to include campaign water bottles and stickers into dry goods bags that were given to SNAP (formerly known as “food stamps”) participants.
WHAT PROBLEM WERE WE TRYING TO SOLVE?
Companies that make sugar-sweetened beverages like soda / pop, energy drinks, and fruity beverages are not forthright about the sugar content in their products—or about the health consequences linked to that sugar. Instead, they associate their brands with athleticism, energy, and strength. On top of that, they specifically market to Black and brown youth through social media, celebrity influences, prizes, hip-hop culture, and sports icons.
A study by the University of Connecticut’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity found that, between 2013 and 2018, spending for sugary-drink advertisements on Spanish-language television went up by 10%. Preschool-aged youth saw the most advertisements, according to the study. This same study also found that Black preschoolers and children see double the number of ads for sugar-sweetened beverages compared with white preschoolers and children. Even more telling, Black teens see 2.3 times more ads for these dangerous drinks than their white peers.
To address this problem, the City of Seattle’s Sweetened Beverage Tax Community Advisory Board (SBT CAB) recommended to City departments that they fund and support a counter-marketing and public awareness campaign.
Together, we developed “Be Ready. Be Hydrated.” This campaign is for the community and by the community. It intentionally focuses on and displays the well-being and positivity of Black and brown youth because it was informed by them.
HOW DID WE SOLVE THIS PROBLEM?
Our approach centered the community and youth in all phases of work: research, creative development, and campaign strategy. We invested in relationships with local non-profit organizations and local media, and managed an iterative process informed by members of the priority audience.
By partnering with organizations which already work with youth on health and wellness, and artistic expression/development, The Vida Agency followed the lead of engaged, informed and talented youth.
The Vida Agency began by conducting research and eliciting feedback from youth. We used human-centered research and mixed-methods to ensure we not only gathered the numbers but heard the stories behind them.
The Youth Coalition Kick-Off was an opportunity to facilitate engaging and interactive data collection efforts. We hosted a “gallery walk” where participants used stickers to vote for their favorite images and phrases. As the data shows, youth prefer bright colors, short statements, and “retro” touches. We also hosted small focus groups to gauge young peoples’ opinion of sugary beverages, and also how they would spread awareness about the health consequences and better alternatives to their friends.
The “Sweet Survey,” which was also informed by the Youth Coalition, was deployed across the Seattle Metropolitan area. We gathered quantitative data about potential campaign messaging and activities, about how our priority populations relate to sugary beverage consumption, and what beverages they considered healthier alternatives – plus the health concerns they associated with sugary beverage consumption.
Our research not only gathered critical information that informed our campaign messaging and strategy, but we also provided opportunities to engage with our priority community and let their expertise lead the way.
WHAT DID WE LEARN?
You can never prepare for a global pandemic, climate change, and the fight for racial justice to all come to a head at once. Instead, you must stay grounded in your values, you must always promote and protect the health of your community, and above all, you must be flexible.
It is necessary to have time to build trust filled relationships with community-based organizations, particularly organizations led by BIPOC community members. Funding contracts should include a time and monetary support within the scope of work for organizations to build community.
Providing stipends for the time, energy and expertise of community in the development of a campaign not only makes the work better, but it’s the right way to work.
Communities should drive campaigns, and creative agencies cannot assume to know what is best for those communities.