It is amazing how messages can affect different populations. To be successful in advocating change, the wordsmiths must craft messages in a way that not only seems welcoming, but obvious.
Such is the story of the campaign for circumcision in Africa.
There was a delightful NPR story on a few days ago about how African governments are turning to advertising in order to encourage more males to be circumcised. In the battle against HIV/AIDS, this one tactic is crucial.
But how can they convince men to go under the knife? This was the question several countries asked. And some came up with interesting answers.
First, the "attraction" appeal. An advertising campaign in Africa is focusing its message based on a survey that suggested women were more attracted to circumcised males. Indeed, an obvious byproduct; if you are disease-free and hygienic, chances are you'll attract more people than otherwise.
Second, the "sex" appeal. An advertising campaign in Zaire is banking its message on data gathered from circumcised males that they believe they "last longer" doing the deed after the operation.
The result? Men are coming into doctors' offices by the droves.
The journalist asked if the advertising was misleading. Is hyping the byproducts of the main cause doing a disservice to the African males?
As long as the studies are true, we see no real ethical concern. Yes, back in the day when Dr. Bernays organized the "Torches of Freedom" campaign, his ultimate goal wasn't to show that women cared about the war and freedom. No, he got his clients' cigarettes in the mouths of beautiful women walking down the middle of a parade.
Misleading advertising must contain some untruths that make the message false in nature. These campaigns in Africa, if successful, will not only change the HIV/AIDS situation, but it could make all of them a little bit happier.
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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