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Driving Social Change through the Power of Celebrities in the Media

As the Director of National Media Accounts at the Ad Council, I've had the privilege of working with celebrities and public figures in an effort to make a positive social impact in our nation. Below I’ve included a couple examples of how we have proven to be a leader in this space and how tapping into social influencers drives positive change for prosocial campaigns.

Celebrities Give Pep Talks for GED Achievement

Earlier this summer, I traveled to Nashville where we produced a co-branded PSA with Country Music Television featuring talented country star, Dustin Lynch. Dustin generously donated his time to raise awareness about the importance of getting your GED.  In the previous round of GED PSAs, the Ad Council worked with 10 celebrities including Debra Jo Rupp, Jamie Lynn Sigler, Jerry Stiller, Ron Perlman and Wendy Raquel Robinson. Wendy came to us as a partnership with BET Networks and their commitment to empower education among their viewers. Each celebrity gave a “pep talk” to young adults encouraging them to get their GED. In the first two years of the campaign, received more than 2.6 million unique visitors and 75 percent of the 39,000 callers reported learning about the number from the PSA campaign materials.

Smokey Bear and Instagram

In July, I traveled to Instagram’s headquarters in Menlo Park to develop our first Instagram partnership featuring Smokey Bear, an American icon and the spokesperson for wildfire prevention. Smokey Bear, who turned 70 on August 9th, is the face of the longest-running public service campaign in the U.S. which was created in 1944 by the U.S. Forest Service, the National Association of State Foresters and the Ad Council. In collaboration with Instagram, we developed a unique creative strategy using the hashtag #OnlyYou from Smokey’s trademark saying, “Only You Can Prevent Wildfires.” In two weeks, the four visuals have already received over 108,000 likes and Smokey Bear’s Instagram followers have increased a whopping 470 percent! The campaign runs until August 30th.

Photos by VII Photographer, Ashley Gilbertson, and Richard Beaven

Those are just a few of many cases where the Ad Council has teamed up with public figures and media companies to raise awareness on causes and we’ll continue to see this trend continue.

Celebrities Take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

By now, I’m sure you've seen or heard of the #ALSIceBucketChallenge.  This is just another example of how social influencers can lead the charge in amplifying a campaign message.  Mega-stars like Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga, and public figures such as Mark Zuckerberg and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, have stepped up to the challenge to donate and pour ice water over their heads.  Facebook analyzed the data and shared their collection of top 20 posts from public figures. As of April 18th, 28 million people had joined the conversation on Facebook with 2.4 million videos relating to the challenge being shared across the social network.  With huge fan communities and millions of social media followers, it’s not a surprise that the ice bucket challenge is a trending topic in our newsfeeds.  While the videos have been fun and entertaining to watch, they inspire the greater mission of increasing awareness and donations for ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), a devastating, debilitating disease.  Upworthy shared this incredibly moving video of Anthony Carbajal’s ice bucket challenge. Anthony lives with ALS every day and several family members have also been diagnosed.  As of Tuesday, August 26th, The ALS Association has received $88.5 million in donations compared to $2.6 million during the same time period last year (an average of $9 million per day in just 7 days).

With the advent of social media, communities of fans follow the daily lives of the artists, musicians, fashion designers, politicians and public figures that inspire and motivate them.  Mahatma Gandhi said it best, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”  I’m excited for a future where media is not only a platform for entertainment and news, but a vehicle for celebrities and social influencers to inspire positivity and teach their fans and followers about the critical issues that desperately need their attention.

This year, the Ad Council is hoping to moderate two SXSW Interactive panels relating to this topic, SmART Campaigns: Art & Music Driving Social Change and Changing Face of Fame: Social Media Celebrities.  Cast your votes for these panels so we can continue this important conversation!


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