In the midst of a looming war, the Ad Council continues its efforts to inform, involve, and inspire the citizens of a nation still recovering from the terrorist attacks of September 11th. The Campaign for Freedom, launched by the Ad Council in March 2002, was designed to assist Americans through the war of terrorism through the development and release of timely and relevant PSAs (Ad Council, 2002).
As our nation wrestles with the threat of war, the environment surrounding a social marketing campaign for freedom is a turbulent one. There are positive aspects that support the campaign as well as negative ones that the campaign will struggle to overcome in relaying messages to the public.
There are several strengths and weaknesses present in the microenvironment of the Campaign for Freedom. One of the greatest strengths the campaign has is its resources. The Ad Council receives over $1 billion per year in donated advertising space and time from the media. The freedom campaign in particular is supported by the Direct Marketing Association and has received funding and marketing expertise from Wunderman, the largest marketing solutions company in the world (DMA, 2002). Another strength that the Ad Council has is its past performance. With successful campaigns such as “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk” and “Take a Bite Out of Crime” under its belt, the council has helped save lives and make America a better place to live (DMA, 2002). Having such expertise and credibility gives any campaign the Ad Council sponsors strength for success. In addition to support from other organizations, the Campaign for Freedom is being headed up by Phil Dusenberry, a 40-year veteran of the advertising industry who has had much success throughout his career.
Although there are many internal strengths working in favor of the Campaign for Freedom, many weaknesses are also present. The issue of freedom obviously affects every American citizen and has been a priority over the past 18 months however, with the imminent threat of war presenting itself to the public, it seems that freedom might be moving to the back burner for the time being. For now, the public is more concerned with the war on terrorism, and according to a recent Harris poll, most Americans are willing to give up some of their freedoms in order to ensure security (Business Week, 2001). 86 percent of those surveyed were in favor of giving up some sort of privacy rights in order to make it easier for the government to capture terrorists or prevent terrorist attacks (Business Week, 2001). It also appears as though the issue of freedom is not a priority for the Ad Council anymore. There are many other campaigns featured on the council’s webpage that are being given more attention than the Campaign for Freedom. Another of the campaign’s weaknesses stems from the lack of services it provides. The only available sources are the first set of PSAs that were released when the campaign began.
In addition to factors in the microenvironment, there are also external threats and opportunities presenting themselves to the Campaign for Freedom. One very positive opportunity for the campaign when it began was that the nation as a whole was feeling very united and patriotic following the attacks of September 11th. However, in recent days, anticipating another disaster seems to be encouraging the opposite to happen – the country is divided. Some oppose war, some want to prepare for an attack, and some see the media’s portrayal of upcoming events as a fearful campaign they want no part of (Gibbs, 2003). If the Campaign for Freedom is to continue, it may receive mixed reactions from the American public now that the public’s views are starting to split.
The campaign is also taking place in the midst of some political and legal forces that may have an effect on its effectiveness. Soon after the campaign was launched, the U.S. Patriot Act 2001 made it legal for FBI to obtain checkout transactions from libraries (Newton, 2002). Although Dusenberry stated that the FBI actions and the “Library” PSA were a coincidence, the Patriot Act allowed the PSA to hit a nerve with the public. However, now that war is more threatening than ever, the government is able to justify its actions to the public, and the public agrees that some freedoms must be given up to ensure security during this time (Kaminer, 2002). For example, the “State of the First Amendment 2002”, issued by the First Amendment Center, shows that 49 percent of Americans agree that the government should be able to monitor religious groups, especially Muslims, even though the constitution specifically states a freedom to practice religion (Church & State, 2002). In addition, 42 percent of Americans agree that the press enjoys too much freedom and that the government should have to approve stories before they are printed or aired (Kaminer, 2002).
Another large threat in the macroenvironment is the technological breakthroughs allowing communities to use cameras in public places (Stephens, 2003). Many Americans approve of the heightened security – 86 percent favor wider use of facial surveillance, 81 percent favor closer surveillance of bank and credit transactions, and 68 percent support implementing a national ID card for all citizens (Business Week, 2001). “Have the terrorists succeeded beyond their expectations by setting the U.S. on a course of suppression of the rights Americans cherish most – freedom of speech, expression, and movement?” (Stephens, 2003).
When the Ad Council’s Campaign for Freedom was first introduced in the U.S. there were many more strengths and opportunities in the environment than there are now. With the threat of war looming on the horizon, the country seems to have fallen into a state of fear and is now willing to give up certain freedoms to ensure safety. In this environment, there is certainly room for a freedom campaign, but will the campaign create a rift in the unity of a country instead of instilling a sense of pride? With safety being the number one priority right now, the Campaign for Freedom may have a better chance at success at a later time – after the fear of war is over, when Americans will want to regain some of the freedoms they lost in their struggle for security.
The Campaign for Freedom was launched at a time when most Americans felt the same way toward their nation and their rights. Although the patriotism exhibited by the public soon after the attacks of September 11th had faded somewhat, most of the nation was still unified in its thoughts about a war on terrorism. Therefore, at the date of its launch, it appears that the Ad Council was not quite as concerned about segmenting the different markets as they should be today. With the recent threats of another terrorist attack and a possible war, the Campaign for Freedom faces a turning point in its message strategies if it is to continue.
Segmenting the target market for a campaign that is meant to affect an entire country is a difficult task. To start, the public can be segmented by those that support the war and those that do not. According to a recent Gallup poll, those who belong to the religious right are more likely to support military action in Iraq, and those who do not place much importance on religion are least likely to support the war effort. With this information, the public could potentially be divided by religion.
More research is needed in order to successfully divide the market for this campaign. If I were to research the public, I would try to find ways to segment by age and geographic location. I might also consider targeting military personnel and government officials, families with children, college students, and senior citizens. Since the goal of the campaign is to inspire, involve, and inform the American public, I would try to target groups that have the most need for inspiration, involvement, and information during this stressful time.
The Ad Council could take the freedom campaign in one of two directions at this point. I think that either a differentiated or an undifferentiated campaign would work for the campaign. It appears that when the campaign was first launched, an undifferentiated approach was used, and now that the mindset of the nation has changed somewhat, there is an opportunity for the campaign to switch over to a differentiated approach.
If the Ad Council were to take a differentiated approach for the remainder of this campaign, it would be necessary for new PSAs and print materials to be distributed among the chosen target audiences. I think that the Ad Council could work to inspire publics like children and senior citizens while at the same time creating different ads to inform college students, military personnel, and middle-aged people.
However, with the threat of an upcoming war, I think that the Ad Council has other issues that take priority away from the Campaign for Freedom. It would most likely be best for the council to continue their efforts with an undifferentiated marketing strategy, and target the entire public with the same messages. If this campaign is to continue, the Ad Council must create some new message strategies to link the campaign with recent events and with a possible war in order to connect with the public.
Americans need a comfortable balance between freedom and safety, and due to recent situations the country may be putting their liberties at risk in order to guarantee security. Hopefully, the Campaign for Freedom can inspire the people of this country to stand up for their rights to free speech, privacy, and freedom to practice religion in light of the fear that has suppressed them after the attacks last September and the threat of more disasters to come.
Ad Council. (2002). Campaign for Freedom. Retrieved February 27, 2003, from http://www.adcouncil.org/campaigns/campaign_for_freedom/.
Gibbs, N. (2003). A nation on edge. Time, 161, 20. Retrieved February 27, 2003, from InfoTrac OneFile database.
Kaminer, W. (2002). Dystopia revisited. (On the contrary). The American Prospect, 13, 9. Retrieved February 27, 2003, from InfoTrac OneFile database.
Newport, F. (2003). Support for war modestly higher among more religious Americans. Gallup Poll News Service. Retrieved February 27, 2003, from The Gallup Organization.
Newton C. (2002). FBI begins visiting libraries. Associated Press. Retrieved February 28, 2003, from InfoTrac OneFile database.
No Author. (2002). The DMA calls on direct marketers to help fund Ad Council anti-terrorism campaign. Retrieved February 27, 2003, from Direct Marketing Association.
No Author. (2001). Privacy vs. security: tread carefully. Business Week, 3756, 124. Retrieved February 27, 2003, from InfoTrac OneFile database.
No Author. (2002). Poll shows support for government monitoring of religion. Church & State, 55, 16-17. Retrieved February 27, 2003, from InfoTrac OneFile database.
Stephens, G. (2003). Can we be safe and free? The dilemma terrorism creates. USA Today (Magazine), 131, 16-18. Retrieved February 27, 2003 from InfoTrac OneFile database.