Come Dance With Me

Jun 14

Me: “Hi, I’m Alex and I’m a ballerina.” Other: “Ballet, huh? Uhh, I’ve seen ‘Black Swan!’”

Now believe me, as a former ballet dancer, I am thrilled when the art to which I have dedicated years of my life in the studio is brought to the center stage of mainstream media. In the past few years, we have had an inundation of films and TV shows, which show dance through a somewhat unfiltered lens:  “First Position,” “Black Swan,” ABC Family’s “Bunheads,” CW’s “Breaking Pointe,” FOX’s “So You Think You Can Dance,” and Lifetime’s “Dance Moms.” The list goes on but their messages are myopic and more or less the same:  dance is hard, unforgiving, and the moms are crazy.

That’s why it was like a breath of fresh air when I saw this video posted to the New York City Ballet’s Facebook page a few weeks ago.

The song, “Man on Fire” is the lead single from the Indie-folk band Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros’ recently released album Here. Shot in New York City in May, it features just about every kind of dance from the New York City Ballet, NY Junior Destiny Allstars, National Double Dutch Junior League, Soul Steps, and Brooklyn Divas, among others. Also, let’s please take note of the portrayal of supportive parents and coaches.

Amidst the dramatic, exclusive, and competitive dance world we’ve seen so much of on TV lately, this video truly positions itself as separate from the mix, pointing to something beyond dance life in a studio.

With its faded colors and sparse composition, it doesn’t take itself too seriously.  Its message is simple and straightforward, yet powerful:  dance is everywhere, it’s transformative, and anyone can do it. Now I don’t mean to underestimate the work and commitment that goes into the pursuit and maintenance of a professional dance career, however, what ever happened to just dance—as exercise, as a mental and physical release, as an expression of spontaneity and personality?

One of my former dance teachers Liz Lerman, founding artistic director of Dance Exchange and a 2002 MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellowship awardee, understood what Sharpe coveys in his video:

“Sometimes art achieves what therapy, medicine, or the best of health professionals cannot…inspiring motivation, engaging parts of people’s bodies or brains that they haven’t been using, or allowing them to transcend their environments for a little while.”

Lerman’s work, supported by MetLife Foundation Healthy Initiative, concentrates on two main areas:  1) arts in healthcare settings combining movement, verbal expression, creative challenge, and collaboration among patients with Huntington’s disease, brain injury, addiction, etc., and 2) integrating dance, which is easily adaptable for different bodies and ages, into activities for adults over 50.

In its third year, the MetLife Foundation Healthy Living Initiative at Dance Exchange has supported the incorporation of art programs, namely dance, into the medical and health/wellness fields to people nationwide. Arts integration has been shown to improve the quality of the healthcare experience for patients, their families, and for the health professionals who serve them, reporting benefits such as shorter hospital stays, less medications, and fewer complications.

This partnership between the Healthy Living Initiative and the Dance Exchange is a step in the right direction to making arts accessible to all ages and promoting dance as an art form that can enhance lives to be more productive and healthier for the mind and the body through the creative expression of movement.

To give some scientific backing, the National Institute on Aging funded a 2003 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, reporting that in addition to the numerous physical benefits from dance, it is also the only physical activity to provide protection against dementia, and offered the greatest risk reduction of any activity studied, cognitive or physical.

Schools are also integrating dance programs—the National Dance Association’s work with First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign, entitled Let’s Move in School, educates youth about the benefits of a creative, healthy lifestyle; and the Washington Ballet’s DanceDC has an in-school program which serves young people in all five wards of the District to offer extensive education, physical activity, and engagement through dance.

The bottom line is that dance doesn’t always have to be in a studio to be called dance.  Maybe you’ll turn on the radio and dance with your kids before dinner, maybe you’ll have a little dance party of your own while you’re washing the dishes, or who knows you may happen upon an alley in the middle of New York City with the corps de ballet of the New York City Ballet. Whatever form it’s packaged in, dance can achieve something unexpected and unparalleled for individuals and communities alike. So, come dance with me.

Making mHealth a Reality

Jun 14

We’ve all had at least one frustrating experience with the health care system. A moment where you’re left thinking: “There has to be a better way of doing this.” For me, these moments often come when the paper-filled world of health care doesn’t jive with my increasingly mobile-based lifestyle. (You can count me in the 35% of all U.S. adults who own a smart phone.)

Mobile health (mHealth) technology offers a potential solution to connecting an increasingly mobile population (83% of U.S. adults own a cell phone) to our experiences with the health care system.

For me, this means a world where after you visit your doctor, the name and dosage of your prescriptions are transferred from your doctor’s electronic health record system to an application in your phone, along with the name of the condition you’re being treated for. The condition links over to a website trusted by the physician that has more information about that condition, which you can read on your own time. From there, you can send your physician additional questions you have through a secure messaging system. That same app would also allow you to enter your symptoms as you experience them, so you aren’t stuck trying to recall their frequency and intensity at your next appointment.

All of this and much more could be possible in the near future, according to a new report from PwC resulting from interviews with 1,805 patients, physicians and health care payer executives. Patients surveyed for the report said they thought mHealth would help improve the convenience (52%), cost (46%), and quality (48%) of their health care within the next three years. Sixty percent of the physicians and payers surveyed said that widespread adoption of mHealth is inevitable.

Despite agreement that mHealth is coming, people interviewed for the report noted there are substantial hurdles to jump through before we’ll see widespread adoption of mHealth solutions. According to the report:

  • mHealth will require a big shift in how the health care system operates—and most health care systems hate change. mHealth tends to focus on prevention and, unfortunately, most health care systems don’t reimburse enough for prevention.
  • Players within the health care system—health care providers, patients, payers—all have different interests in mHealth and these differing interests will make it challenging to implement solutions.
  • For mHealth adoption to become widespread, any solutions must appeal to payers, because patients are “highly sensitive to price” and won’t be willing to foot the bill for mHealth technology.

The report offers several recommendations for overcoming these hurdles. The two that resonated most with me:

  1. In developing mHealth solutions, focus on actually providing a solution to a business problem; don’t focus on what technology can do. In my work, we say this all the time: Don’t focus on the tactics, focus on the strategy. From there, the best tactics to achieve the strategy will follow.
  2. mHealth creators should build partnerships to create solutions that can be part of an mHealth ecosystem rather than stand on their own. These partnerships can help identify the best ways to implement a solution and move its adoption along. Interoperability with other mobile health solutions is one of the ingredients to a successful mHealth model, says the report.

All that said, even a perfectly designed mHealth solution requires something bigger to be successful: it requires behavior change on the part of everyone involved in the health care system. All physicians will need to be electronic so that data can be shared with their patients, and they’ll need to input quality data so patients understand what they are reading. Payers will need to provide incentives, likely financial, for physicians to be active participants in making these solutions work. Finally, patients will need to take an active role in their care: using mHealth solutions to track their symptoms, interact with their physician and research their conditions (in other words, become a “quantified patient”). All of this will take time, but like the people interviewed for the PwC report, I believe we will get there.

Photo credit: Alvimann from

Messages About Sun Protection and Skin Cancer Must Include People of Color

Jun 07

With the official start of summer approaching in the next two weeks the thought of outdoor events and relaxing vacations fill my mind. When the summer sun hits my skin I immediately feel happy. I’m ready to throw caution to the wind and hit the beach – which is exactly what I did last weekend. I had perfect beach weather in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

After enjoying a day of lounging and playing in the ocean I noticed my friend, a fair-skinned African American woman, with a nice red glow. She’d forgotten to apply sun screen and had a pretty serious burn. Her painful predicament reminded me just how important sun protection is, and how sharing this message with everyone, especially people of color, can save a life.

Last month The Huffington Post posted the article, Skin Cancer and African Americans: Why You Shouldn’t Ignore It that focused on this topic.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, skin cancer comprises just 1 to 2 percent of all cancers among African Americans, but less than half of melanomas in African Americans are diagnosed at an early stage compared to 74 percent in Hispanics and 84 percent in Caucasians. Reggae music lovers may remember that reggae legend Bob Marley discovered a type of malignant melanoma under the nail of one of his toes, and the cancer ultimately spread to his lungs and brain causing his death 31 years ago.

While skin cancer is less likely in people of color, it is more deadly because it is most often caught in its later stage. The article also provides an interesting slide show to address the most common misconceptions about cancer in dark skin, such as black people don’t get skin cancer (we do!) and dark skin is a natural SPF (not entirely true!).

Even the American Medical Association (AMA) has adopted the cause. In 2010 the AMA established a policy to support and encourage efforts to increase awareness of skin cancer risks, skin cancer screening and sun protective behaviors in communities of color. The policy includes partnerships with the National Medical Association, the National Hispanic Medical Association and the American Academy of Dermatology to get the word out about the importance of sun protection.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides the following tips on ways everyone can protect their skin from the sun:

  • Take precautions against sun exposure every day of the year, especially during midday hours (10 a.m. – 4 p.m.), when UV rays are strongest and do the most damage. UV rays can reach you on cloudy days and can reflect off of surfaces like water, cement, sand, and snow.
  • Seek shade, especially during midday hours.
  • Cover up with clothing to protect exposed skin.
  • Wear a hat with a wide brim to shade the face, head, ears, and neck.
  • Wear sunglasses that wrap around and block as close to 100 percent of both UVA and UVB rays as possible.
  • Put on sunscreen with broad spectrum (UVA and UVB) protection and a sun protective factor (SPF) of 15 or higher.
  • Avoid tanning beds and sunlamps. The UV rays from them are as dangerous as the UV rays from the sun.

I plan to share these tips with my friends and hopefully this weekend we’ll avoid sun burns!

What are sun protection habits you use regularly? Do you encourage friends and family to do the same?

With Summer Comes Hurricane Season

Jun 01

Today marks the first day of the Atlantic hurricane season, which lasts through November. Today the media is abuzz with the question “are you prepared?” with various experts explaining the steps individuals should take to prepare for hurricane season:

  • Build and emergency kit: In addition to your flashlights, batteries, and canned food, do you have a few days of any prescription medications? Food for your pets? A battery operated weather radio?
  • Make a family communication plan: Where will you meet if you get separated from your family? Do you have an out-of-town contact who can act as a communications liaison for your family?
  • Know your evacuation route: Do you know where you would go, if you need to evacuate? How about the best way to get there?
  • Determine your flood risk: Are you near a levee, dam, or body of water? Are you within a storm surge zone? Do you have flood insurance?
  • Have a plan to secure your property: as the folks at the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) will tell you, tape won’t protect your windows during a hurricane or tropical storm. Do you have storm shutters or plywood? Do you knave a place to tie down your patio furniture or a place to put it away?

There are a number of social marketing and risk communications efforts underway to help people understand and prepare for the hazards of hurricane season, from to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Hurricane Preparedness Week to FLASH’s Go Tapeless campaign. Each campaign takes a different approach to helping the public understand their risk and encouraging them to act. But each clearly employs foundational risk communication principles: a trusted source providing actionable steps the public can use to mitigate their risk.

But I wonder if more attention ought to be spent on understanding risk. In Florida, studies have shown that those at the highest risk underestimate their hazard, while those at low risk are more likely to overestimate the danger they face from hurricanes. Countless times, I have tried to explain to my parents that they live in a coastal area and ought to consider flood insurance. Every time they tell me that they can’t see the water from their house—it could never reach them. So if they have no incentive to prepare…are all these campaigns white noise to them? How do we educate people on risk, in order to get them to prepare?

Two questions remain. Do you know your risk? Are you prepared for hurricane season?

Kitty Harding at the National Hurricane Conference

Ride or be ridden.

May 31

Control diabetes or let it control you.  That’s a rallying cry for the “Red Riders” who cope with Type I and Type II diabetes and will be participating in the American Diabetes Association’sTour de Curethis weekend on June 3rd.

The group knows all too well the importance of exercise and staying in shape when dealing with this potentially deadly condition. They’re taking to the roads in Virginia with 1,500 other riders –including an Ogilvy Team!—to generate funding for diabetes research, advocacy, and information programs.

Last week, the news on diabetes could not have been more stunning.  A report published in the journal Pediatrics indicated that, in less than a decade, the numbers testing positive for diabetes or pre-diabetes jumped from nine percent to 23 percent of American teens. That’s nearly one in four.

The risks from diabetes are huge—kidney failure, vision loss, amputation, stroke, heart attack, and nerve damage.  It’s a heavy prospect for a person at any age.  But it’s particularly frightening to consider what such a large number of youth are facing so early in their lives.

The situation is one more resounding alarm for embracing a healthy lifestyle.  As a parent, it’s a reminder for me to be a good example to my kids; to get them to eat a vegetable by doing so myself; to lead from the front by dropping the bag of chips and jumping on the bike. Just like those Red Riders.

Is Your Life Glass Half-Empty or Half-Full?

May 24

Credit: NYimes, Yvetta Fedorova

Credit: Yvetta Fedorova

In both our personal and professional lives, we all encounter situations where the perception of our life glass is either half-full or half-empty. Our response to that age-old question helps to define us as individuals, as well as inform our personal outlook on life. I have been an optimist my entire life, for better (always seeing the good in people) or for worse (even when I shouldn’t), continually looking on the bright side of life (not to quote Monty Python). But, I never thought about the health benefits of my personality traits until now.

Earlier this week, Jane Brody, Personal Health and Wellness contributor to The New York Times, wrote a blog post on optimism and its various health benefits. While reading her blog, it made me think, “How can optimism actually make me healthier?”

In her blog post, Brody talks about “Breaking Murphy’s Law,” by Suzanne C. Segerstrom, a professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky, who explains that “optimism is not about being positive so much as it is about being motivated and persistent.” She adds that people can become more optimistic by simply acting as if they were more optimistic, providing some support for the notion of positive thinking.

An example of this persistence in the sports world is clear in a recent tweet on May 1 from Drew Brees, a spokesperson for Ogilvy Washington’s client, the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition (PCFSN): “Just enjoyed a lunch with Billie Jean King in DC between PCFSN meetings. Quote of the Day from her: Failure is not failure, its feedback.” I am sure that this positive perception on failure helped Ms. King overcome any challenges in her amazing tennis career.

The Mayo Clinic notes that “optimism is the belief that good things will happen to you and that negative events are temporary setbacks to be overcome.” In a study the Clinic released in May 2011 entitled, “Positive thinking: Reduce stress by eliminating negative self-talk,” the overwhelming physical and mental health benefits of positive thinking are discussed, including (but not limited to):

  • Increased life span
  • Lower rates of depression
  • Lower levels of distress
  • Better psychological and physical well-being
  • Reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
  • Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress

While the study is unclear as to why positive thinking provides these health benefits, it does theorize that perhaps a positive outlook allows individuals to better handle stressful situations and thus reduce the harmful effects of stress.

To help develop a more positive outlook on life (for those pessimists or realists out there), the Mayo Clinic identified six ways to lead a healthier lifestyle:

  • Identify areas to change
  • Check yourself
  • Be open to humor
  • Follow a healthy lifestyle
  • Surround yourself with positive people
  • Practice positive self-talk

As part of my resolution for 2012 (yes, I know, I am a little late), I will try to incorporate at least three ways to lead a healthier lifestyle (listed above) into my daily life. What will you do?

*For applications on Optimism and Social Marketing, check out Lisa Charnitski’s blog post from January 2012.

“Gamifying” Weight Loss and Behavior Change

May 21

We all know that weight loss is a simple equation – more calories expended than consumed. Eat healthy and increase physical activity. But if it was that easy to change behavior, break habits, and stave off cravings, then we would not be facing the problem of obesity among over one third of all adults in the U.S.

Last week, amidst all of the Weight of the Nation buzz, an article in The New York Times caught my eye. Nicole LaPorte’s article, “Dieting for Dollars (or Maybe a Movie Ticket),” presents a few important ideas:

  • “Gamification,” or applying techniques from games and psychology, can change real world behavior. The IBM engineers featured in the article wanted to make weight loss fun, so they took inspiration from their favorite video games to develop a program that helps with weight loss every step of the way.
  • Real time encouragement and feedback is key. The IBM program takes a card from the Honda Insight hybrid and gives immediate feedback on behavior – meaning someone is “scolded” when they eat a candy bar but praised when they opt for a salad.
  • Tangible rewards don’t hurt either. Beyond the encouragement, the program offers actual incentives like money and movie tickets as a reward for successful weight loss.
  • Workplace participation and support means success. IBM envisions the program being offered by health insurance providers through workplaces, meaning employees are encouraged to get up and take a 15 minute walk at lunchtime, or bike into the office. Institutionalizing healthy living and weight loss encourages actual lifestyle changes rather than fad diets.

Gaming is being applied more and more often in social marketing – and not just in the weight loss arena. For more posts about the use of games to change behavior, check out these previous posts: Using Games in Social Marketing and Modifying Behavior Through Video Games.

image from

Effective Communication Strategies Can Help Reduce Non-Communicable Diseases

May 18

This blog was co-authored by Maria James and Carrie Dooher.

Chronic diseases, often referred to as “lifestyle” diseases, including heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and arthritis – are among the most common, costly, and preventable of all health problems in the U.S. and also the leading causes of death and disability. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), four modifiable health risk behaviors—lack of physical activity, poor nutrition, tobacco use, and excessive alcohol consumption—are responsible for much of the illness, suffering, and early death related to chronic diseases. Specifically with regards to obesity, just last week the CDC released a new report published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine warning that 42 percent of the U.S. population will be obese by 2030 – while that may seem to be some time in the future, that’s actually just 18 years away.

But this is not just an issue that afflicts the U.S.; it is a global epidemic estimated to kill 36 million people a year and is so important and acute that in 2011 for only the second time in its history, the United Nations (UN) addressed the prevention of non-communicable diseases, or NCDs, at their General Assembly meeting to set a new international agenda on the prevention of NCDs. The first and only other time that the UN General Assembly met on a health issue was to discuss the world epidemic of AIDS.  World leaders joined Health and Development Ministers in the consensus adoption of a wide-ranging Political Declaration on the prevention and control of NCDs; this Declaration’s implementation will be evaluated in 2014. And progress is already beginning to be benchmarked against it – on May 16, the World Health Organization released new data highlighting increases in hypertension and diabetes incidence around the world in anticipation of the World Health Assembly, to be held in Geneva from 21 to 26 May 2012, which will consider progress made from last Septembers meetings. In addition, the World Health Assembly will continue discussions about developing a global monitoring framework and a set of voluntary targets for prevention and control of these diseases.

While there are many disciplines considering solutions to NCDs, one that should not be ignored is social marketing. As an effective health promotion strategy, social marketing can be, and has been, used to motivate people to use health information and change behavior in ways that promote and maintain good health. And a critical step in creating positive behavior change to impact health is simple, science-based, behavior-focused communication messages on nutrition and health.

On May 1st, the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation announced the publication of the proceedings from its 2011 Global Diet and Physical Activity Communications Summit: “Insights to Motivate Healthful, Active Lifestyles,” in the May 2012 issue of the peer-reviewed journal Nutrition Reviews, stressing again the need for health communicators to be part of the solution in addressing NCDs. As U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina M. Benjamin stated in the keynote address at IFIC Foundation’s Global Summit in September 2011, there is an essential need for communicators of global health to provide clear, simple information based on the latest science, to stress prevention and to employ a comprehensive, holistic approach to combating non-communicable diseases or NCDs.

Along with the release of the Nutrition Reviews article, last week the IFIC Foundation also released a helpful one-page fact sheet entitled, “Communication Strategies to Help Reduce the Prevalence of Non-communicable Diseases.” The fact sheet combines the key findings from the Summit into 10 helpful tips for communicating health messages with consumers.

The top five tips include:
1.    Use easy to understand messages.
2.    Set realistic goals.
3.    Connect with children early in life on how they can succeed.
4.    Focus on “how to do it” instead of “what to do.”
5.    A key message should be “do something.”

When the UN measures progress in 2014, what are your thoughts on how far we will have come?

Skinny, Unscripted: Reality TV’s Effect on Body Image beyond the Small Screen

May 17

Full disclosure: I’m a bit addicted to “The Bachelor.” Every few months, a new season premieres on ABC and, every few months, I swear to myself that this will be the last season I watch. But before I realize that it’s happened, I’ve been sucked back down into the abyss of beautiful people, scripted drama, and saccharine love stories once again.

However, I am not alone. Millions of people are tuning in with me, many of whom are also 20-something women. So, what keeps us coming back for more, season after season? In a Huffington Post blog post titled “‘The Bachelor’: Why Smart Women Watch (and Love) It,” Emma Gray tackles the question head-on, analyzing why so many viewers succumb to temptation every Monday night. She aptly compares watching the show with rubber-necking on the freeway; essentially we are unable to tear our eyes away from a “good train wreck.” She also credits the fake love on screen with making us grateful for the real thing in the real world.

What I believe is Ms. Gray’s most poignant argument, however, is that many viewers possess an innate need to pass judgment to relieve internal frustrations- with a bad day at work, a painful break-up, or simply their own inability to make it to the gym each night- in “safe” environments, such as their living rooms. In this way, the show acts as a cathartic kind of stress release.

Measuring one’s own worth through comparisons to others is a natural tendency, but unfortunately, watching programs such as “The Bachelor” provides viewers with a skewed representation of what “most people” look like and therefore an unrealistic contrast. It also reinforces the high standards of society and mainstream media’s definition of “attractive,” which, based solely on “The Bachelor’s” 10-year record of immaculately-groomed and perfectly-toned contestants, seems to be exclusive to sizes zero and two.

"The Bachelor" Cast: Season 14

In the 2006 paper, “The ‘Reality’ of Health: Reality Television and the Public Health,” the Kaiser Family Foundation expresses concern that the obsession with being physically attractive and sexually desirable as portrayed on shows like “The Bachelor” may contribute to the rise in eating disorders among young girls, since they are less likely than older generations to see the contrived nature of the shows and, therefore, more likely to take what they see at face value. This means that for the eight million Americans who suffer from eating disorders and the millions more with body image issues, shows like “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” may only be adding fuel to the fire.

In a mainstream culture so saturated with superficiality, the effect of images portrayed as “normal” in reality TV programs on young women should be an important topic of study, since an eating disorder is as real as any other disease. Much emphasis and government funding is placed on solving the country’s obesity epidemic, as over 60% of American adults are carrying excess pounds, but it is important not to overlook those in need of gaining a few, or at least those who are in need of reassurance they do not need to be a size zero.

So what does this mean in the social marketing context? Although there is a plethora of coverage on eating disorders in the media, promotion of more general discussions about the pressure women feel to be “perfect” could go a long way. It seems the majority of existing anti-eating disorder campaigns is based in foreign countries such as the United Kingdom, Italy, and Israel, and most are entirely ad-focused, relying heavily on shock tactics to grab attention. In truth, the possibilities for campaign messaging and tonality are plentiful. Whether by taking a shock-and-awe approach or promoting female empowerment and acceptance of all body types, the initiative could undoubtedly be customized to fulfill various client needs (think: Dove’s 2004 “Real Beauty” campaign.) These initiatives could incorporate tactics such as television PSAs that air during the programs of greatest concern (like “The Bachelor”), thereby easily reaching the young, female target audience. Perhaps this is also an opportunity to challenge entertainment and casting companies to include women who represent a more “typical” body image within the reality TV sector.

In the meantime, as long as we “The Bachelor” addicts are careful to maintain some distance and understand that what we’re watching is pure entertainment and NOT normal life, ordinary people, standard scenarios, or typical relationships… it’s fairly harmless. Or so I will continue to tell myself, this season and (most likely) next.

Introducing OgilvyEngage

May 16

OgilvyExchange Logo

The Business of Behavior

Companies increasingly recognize that if societies falter, their business can’t succeed. Accordingly, many enterprises acknowledge that it is a business imperative to get people to change individual behaviors around such issues as driving safely, eating healthier, taking medications regularly, staying out of debt  and others.

Through corporate responsibility commitments, sustainability initiatives, philanthropic contributions, and more, companies are changing the way they do business and driving awareness of important social issues. But too many efforts stop there, and much more can be done. What’s often missing is the engagement of stakeholder audiences in changing their behaviors… to move people beyond awareness toward actions that make an impact.

This new frontier is discussed in the latest edition of Ogilvy & Mather’s Red Paper Series – From Cause to Change: The business of behavior.  It explores the ways in which companies across a broad range of industries can become agents of behavior change and contribute even more so to the well-being of individuals and society while improving business performance.  For companies, this can translate into market expansion opportunities, reduced costs, strengthened brand positioning, and an enhanced reputation and leadership profile.

Leveraging the science of behavior change is at the heart of social marketing, the application of marketing and communications to the promotion of ideas, issues, and practices that support personal and public health and safety, community benefits, and social change.  In effect, it’s to spark positive behavior change. Social marketing traditionally has had a rich and successful legacy in the public sector, something that our agency has been acquainted with for nearly three decades. We know how social marketing gets people to buckle up, get screened for colon cancer, purchase flood insurance, and more.  These are significant impacts and the results cannot be discounted.

What is OgilvyEngage?

OgilvyEngage is Ogilvy Public Relations’ new global behavioral science practice that helps companies drive socially-beneficial behavior change among consumers, employees, and other stakeholders to improve business performance while contributing to the well-being of individuals and society.  We use proven behavior change models, theories, tools, and techniques to help clients assess opportunities; better understand the motivations of their audiences; and design results-oriented messages, strategies, and programs.

This expertise is born out of our global social marketing practice.  For nearly 30 years, we have been a global leader in helping clients change minds, shift attitudes, redefine norms, and support sustained individual and community behavior change.  We design research-based and theory-informed integrated solutions that combine disciplines such as paid, earned, and owned media; partnership development and coalition building; special events; advertising; and direct marketing to help clients around the world make a difference in healthcare, wellness, safety, education, personal finance, and more.

At the heart of this specialty is our agency’s proprietary Dynamics of Change model, a tool designed to identify the specific change a company should invest in to bring about maximized outcomes for its business, individuals, and society, as well as to define the strategy and processes for implementing a change program.

The Benefit for Business

Global changes to the economy, to our environment, and to our social welfare are mandating new approaches to how we live.  Adding behavior change leadership from the private sector to that of government and public interest organizations will create a multi-faceted approach with exponential benefits.  For example, companies can:

  • Reap meaningful and measurable business performance and return on investment, ranging from market expansion opportunities and reduced costs to strengthened brand positioning and an enhanced reputation and leadership profile.
  • Advance and evolve their engagement in public good and expand the impact of many of their corporate responsibility initiatives.
  • Strengthen the increasingly important – and necessary – relationship among a thriving business enterprise, the well-being of stakeholders, and social change.

Examples in Action

On April 19, we hosted a panel discussion at Ogilvy Washington – Socially Responsible Behavior Change as a Business Imperative –  to share how some companies are already embracing the opportunity to build their business while fostering socially-responsible behavior change.   For example :

  • Opower works with utilities to help them meet their efficiency goals by getting their customers to use less energy.
  • Starbucks promotes composting by providing coffee grounds to consumers to take home for their composts.
  • Energizer prompts consumers to change their smoke detector batteries twice a year when they change their clocks for daylight savings time.
  • Allstate asks teens to pledge not to text and drive.
  • Clorox encourages consumers to regularly disinfect phones and other items in the home that are touched often to reduce the incidence of flu.

These companies are early adopters of what we see as a growing trend and a business imperative.  We are absolutely convinced that businesses that engage consumers and other stakeholders in socially-beneficial behavior change stand to enjoy meaningful benefits to their bottom lines.  And we believe that the engagement of the private sector is critical to helping individuals and societies across the globe tackle the many complex and difficult problems that we face – issues like obesity, water conservation, disease prevention, and financial literacy – that will only be addressed successfully by the cooperation and involvement of all sectors.

Download the Red Paper

We invite you to join the discussion and we welcome your reactions and responses to our Red Paper.  And I invite you to connect with me directly: