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PR Fail: Mayor Bloomberg and Planned Parenthood Argue Over Guilt Teen Pregnancy Ads
By: Shawn Paul Wood
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So, pretend you have a teenager (or think about yours now, whichever works). Obviously, "the birds and the bees" are swarming overhead like a deleted scene from "War of the Worlds." Flying in like lawn darts at a redneck picnic as fast you can possibly imagine. What do you do? Most responsible parents will have the ubiquitous and often dreaded "talk" with their kids. You know the one? 

"Son, I need to talk to you about sex."
"Cool. What do you need to know?"

After that candid discussion, you blush...the kid laughs...and you carry on like it never happened until they need to bum money for an even more dreaded trip to the drug store.

Well, vertically challenged billionaire, media maven, soda hater, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has decided that those talks aren't good enough. In fact, neither are the parents in his opinion, which is why he has created this PSA campaign that has created quite the brouhaha with his fare burgh and Planned Parenthood, according to this article in the New York Daily News. The story notes that the ads are emblazoned on bus depots and subway stations, and even a texting campaign for "NOTNOW" all across the Big Apple. Unfortunately, the babies in the campaign look like they ate the worm in said apple — sobbing, cantankerous, snotty-nosed, and spewing negativity. The messages are full of transgression-laden messages like "I'm twice as likely not to graduate high school because you had me as a teen." 

To wit, Planned Parenthood officials call it "a scare campaign that shames teen parents and promotes gender stereotypes."

“The latest NYC ad campaign creates stigma, hostility and negative public opinions about teen pregnancy and parenthood rather than offering alternative aspirations for young people,” said Haydee Morales, vice president of Planned Parenthood of New York City. “The city’s money would be better spent helping teens access health care, birth control and high-quality sexual and reproductive health education, not an ad campaign intended to create shock value.”

Shock value? Aren't those statistics accurate? Isn't the reality of teen pregnancy bleak enough? So, what gives with the angst, Planned Parenthood? Consider this "protection" you didn't have to fork over. Where is the PR Fail really focused? Mayor Bloomberg for shaming would-be parents against staying out past 2 a.m. on a school night, or Planned Parenthood getting distressed because the ad campaign is helping them do their job? If you read the Planned Parenthood mission statement, the organization says they exist to "provide educational programs which enhance understanding of individual and societal implications of human sexuality" and they "further believe that such self-determination will contribute to an enhancement of the quality of life and strong family relationships." 

If you take a gander at these ads (or an advertising "program"), and plan on hooking up with your nubile, acne-ridden friend with very little benefits, you may understand some "implications" fast. So, what the what, Planned Parenthood? Lest you forget, this is the same cat that donated $250,000 to your organization when Komen determined it wasn't so politically correct for them to sponsor you. Remember that? Moreover, the campaign is effective!

The Daily News reported last month that the tactics appear to be working: Teen pregnancy dropped 27 percent over the last decade, as the number of teens having sex fell and the proportion using birth control rose.
So, um, why the angst again? Because young adults' feelers may be bruised? You also believe in participation ribbons and not keeping score in 5th-grade basketball games, huh? Not the Grand Poobah of New York City:
“It is well past time when anyone can afford to be value neutral when it comes to teen pregnancy,” said Bloomberg spokeswoman Samantha Levine. “This city has been a national leader in allocating resources to make birth control available and provide sex education to young people, but at the same time we must send a strong message that teen pregnancy has consequences — and those consequences are extremely negative, life-altering and most often disproportionately borne by young women.”
In conclusion: Is teenage pregnancy a death knell to a future? No. Is teenage pregnancy a fatal blow to the baby's future? Not necessarily. Does teen pregnancy make life overwhelming to completely unbearable to teen parents? Absolutely. If this PSA campaign stops the process of two 15-year-old kids making their lives grueling, if not for a few more years...aren't a few boo-boos on some feelings worth it? 

I don't know, but I'll bet some organization is "planning" a response to that very thing once word gets out about this.

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About the Author
Shawn Paul Wood is a hack-turned-flack with more than 20 years of collective journalism, copywriting and marketing communications experience. Shawn Paul is founder of Woodworks Communications in Dallas, Texas. If you need him, ping him here or follow him on Twitter @ShawnPaulWood
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