Reaching neglected audiences: Health-care push gears up

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Interest is growing in promoting health issues and pharmaceuticals to neglected audiences as a $20 million government multicultural campaign targets child obesity and Pfizer names a Hispanic agency.

Last week Pfizer awarded its biggest Hispanic initiative, an estimated $7 million corporate-branding campaign, to Dieste, Harmel & Partners, Dallas, partly owned by Omnicom Group. The account, expected to include issue-oriented ads, corporate initiatives and individual brands, starts next year. Dieste already handles Pfizer's cholesterol drug Lipitor.

Hispanics, as well as Asian-Americans, African-Americans and American Indians, often don't seek testing or take preventive measures against so-called silent killers such as diabetes and high cholesterol.

The Centers for Disease Control is targeting all four groups in its initiative to encourage 9-to-13-year-olds to be physically active. The effort, a huge budget by multicultural standards, is part of a larger $125 million campaign that began in the general market this summer and rolls out to ethnic communities this month. Some executions are aimed at kids and others at their parents.


Mike Greenwell, communications director for the chronic-disease center at the CDC, said the four agencies handling the account had to be aware of the differences in how health is viewed by the individual ethnic groups, as well as family dynamics in their market segments.

Asians, for example, are more concerned about how their kids are doing in school and put less emphasis on physical activity. One commercial with a print execution pans a long line of kids dressed for different sports, from cheerleaders to hockey players to a boy in a wheelchair with a bow and arrow. One space is empty-it's where the child seeing the ad belongs. A Partnership, New York, is the Asian agency, and worked closely with African-American agency PFI:Marketing, New York.

"Latino parents consider good health to be my child eats well, is happy, and isn't sick," said Erika Prosper, director of account services and strategic planning at GarciaLKS, San Antonio, the CDC's Hispanic agency. "Physical activity is rarely mentioned."

One Hispanic spot aimed at educating parents shows a mother enthusiastically rooting for her child during a game. "The message is that a healthy child has a mother who screams more-from the bleachers," Ms. Prosper said.

More than any other ethnic group, Hispanic mothers don't want their daughters playing rough sports, like soccer, she said. So one of the print ads features a girl shining at soccer.

The general-market ads, by Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi, and the ethnic work all use the same theme: "Verb. It's what you do." But the American Indian print ads and posters, by G&G Advertising, Albuquerque, tack on the phrase "Native Style." And the colloquial Spanish-language version "Verb. Ponte las pilas" (meaning "get moving" or literally "charge up your batteries") is stronger than the English theme.

"It's more of a call to action, which Latino kids needed," Ms. Prosper said.

The CDC campaign also has an extensive corporate and grassroots component, from getting companies to donate sports equipment to passing out Verb tattoos at an Asian street fair.

A few pharmaceutical marketers like Pfizer are tapping ethnic markets. So far GlaxoSmithKline is one of the few to target Asian-Americans, with a $1.2 million campaign for diabetes drug Avandia that started in October. To explain diabetes, IW Group, owned partly by Interpublic Group of Cos., uses print ads and posters that are like Japanese comic books as well as free Chinese cookbooks featuring dishes low in sugar and fat.

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