In today’s digitally connected world, cities are increasingly communicating with residents through the internet, social media and smartphone applications. However, using more traditional marketing and communications methods are still effective ways to spread public awareness. For instance, public transit is an integral part of any city, with opportunities for advertisements on subways, buses and light rail. Daily newspapers offer another. Both are terrific ways to reach residents regardless of where they live and their ability to access the internet. These ads are oftentimes the initial interface between residents and a campaign. The most effective ads will prompt residents to go online to learn more, sign up, spread the word and take action.
Here in New York City, we’ve worked with a number of city agencies to develop public awareness campaigns to inform New Yorkers about laws and programs that affect their daily lives. We have worked with the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs, the NYC Office of Small Business Services and the NYC Commission on Human Rights to develop effective campaigns to communicate and amplify their messages to residents throughout the five boroughs.
Public awareness campaigns require strategic design and two key components to have the most impact:
- Visualization - Commuters are constantly moving, so there’s only a small window of opportunity to grab their attention. To do so, you will need to choose an effective visualization of your message based on the type of campaign or message.
When designing the concept for the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs’ Paid Sick Leave campaign, we focused on weaving together bright, evocative illustrations of positive health with specialized typographic treatment – elevating the simple messaging around being “100% Healthy” to resonate with the diverse, multi-lingual audience of New Yorkers directly impacted by the new legislation. The importance of health transcends cultural boundaries, and our visual focus mirrored that universal value.
To spread the word about the Minority/Women Business Enterprise (M/WBE) program for the NYC Office of Small Business Services, we chose to leverage real life success stories of participating M/WBE business owners whose personal experiences speak to the effective support and benefits gained from their certification through SBS. Through the medium of photography, the proud and positive profiles of these individuals generate an empathy and authenticity that can call like-minded entrepreneurs to action.
- Messaging - Statements should be concise and language should be simple to get your message across quickly and clearly.
To amplify last year’s Fair Chance Act, we played with language to reach audiences on both sides of the employment process and drive behavior change towards eliminating discriminatory practice. The resounding affirmation expressed in the key messaging– which reads “Criminal Record? You can work with that”– is made simple and clear with the supporting copy presenting a synopsis of the legislation and a helpful resource to learn more.
In drafting the Credit History Discrimination Campaign for the NYC Commission on Human Rights, we elevated the empowering message that New Yorkers are “more than their credit score” to stand in stark contrast to the array of faded credit statistics encircling the photographed individuals. The ad speaks directly to “you”; there are few things that grab one’s attention more than affirmative statements that seem to single you out from the rest of the crowd.
Coupled with wide distribution, powerful, attention-grabbing campaigns have the potential to reach residents at every intersection. Across NYC, there are more than 40 versions of the M/WBE subway ads in 10+ languages, ferries and local newspapers; 3,000 Fair Chance Act subway car ads; 300,000 Paid Sick Leave leaflets distributed to businesses and 2,000 subway, bus shelter and phone kiosk ads in both English and Spanish. Each of these public awareness campaigns were able to reach and inform a diverse range of commuters traveling across NYC about the services and laws that impact their lives in the city.