When you think of the purpose of advertising, what first comes to mind?

It may be to generate sales, create brand recognition, or introduce a new product. What you may not realize is that advertising can have a stronger and more meaningful purpose. It can create awareness and generate buzz about an important value or idea. It can create general positivity around an issue, force consumers to grapple with an alternate perspective, or even make them question their beliefs.


History of the CCCADA

For 26 years, the Camden County Council on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse (CCCADA) has undertaken the role of alcohol and drug abuse prevention efforts in Camden County, New Jersey. Their mission is to encourage “the early identification, intervention, treatment and continuum of care for alcoholism and substance abuse.” Their main goals are to prevent alcoholism and drug abuse, and educate the public that they are both treatable and preventable. Since 2009, EMC Outdoor has partnered with CCCADA to thwart this disease in Camden County.

One of the campaign efforts, headed by Andrea Marshall, the Director of Education at CCCADA, and her colleague Robert Chew, the Program Coordinator, is to promote a drug-free community through Out of Home advertising with the message – “Drug Free Community Starts with Me!” The campaign’s goal is to start the conversation about the dangers of drugs and alcohol consumption, and to discuss ways to say “no” or find positive alternatives.

“We launched our campaign in 2008 as an opportunity for area youth to participate in a positive alternative activity that promotes a drug free lifestyle,” Marshall explains.



Activating the Youth

The conversation starts with the youth  who play an integral and unique role in the campaign—making the creative. The CCCADA partners with about 75-100 different schools, faith organizations and youth groups to promote youth involvement. The creative development is as a competition among students in grades 6-12, who live in Camden, NJ. Students submit artwork to judges who select a winner, then their artwork is used as the campaign creative.

[bctt tweet=”The conversation starts with the youth who play an integral and unique role in the campaign—making the creative.” username=”emcoutdoor”]

When the campaign started in 2008, Marshall and the CCCADA team were tasked with sending out campaign letters and fliers to schools in the Camden area to promote youth participation. Each student who wanted to submit work for the competition was required to use actual poster-board. This aspect of the process proved to be difficult for low-income families due to lack of resources and access. Eventually, CCCADA worked with EMC to streamline the process. We helped create a submission form which allowed for more outreach through mail and email.

Once the submissions are received, the winners are chosen by the CCCADA staff members who review each submission to ensure the students remained within the guidelines of the competition. After the review, the staff selects 10-20 finalists. The winner(s) are selected by an anonymous voting process from the members of the local Drug Free Community Coalition.

At the start of the campaign, Marshall says the original budget afforded the CCCADA an opportunity to occupy upwards of 25 billboards each year. They could present framed certificates and checks to the winners at their Annual Substance Abuse Prevention Conference. Through the years, and with changes to funding, the team is only able to fill 4-8 billboards. They’re also not able to award prizes to the winners, except being able to see their artwork up in their community.



A Counter-Campaign Approach

What is interesting about this specific campaign is how it has grown into a type of counter-campaign. Marshall and the CCCADA seek out media space on convenience stores and buildings. This is media space that typically displays advertisements for alcohol and tobacco. They buy this media space then fill it with the positive “Drug Free Community Starts with Me” campaign creative.

This positive promotion, made visible throughout the community, counters the messaging that usually fill these media spaces. As the CCCADA creative fills the media, their positive message extends farther and longer. Some people from Camden may not have access to the internet or a phone book. Researching places where they can get help is difficult. With the CCCADA being an agency that helps people from low-income families and communities with rampant drug and alcohol abuse, the most important aspect for these boards is to include contact information.

[bctt tweet=”This positive promotion, made visible throughout the community, counters the negative messaging that usually fill these media spaces.” username=”emcoutdoor”]

“The inspiration behind this campaign is to engage youth in an alternative way outside of writing and music, and provide a more artistic approach to prevention,” Marshall explains. “Because of its success, we continue to look for creative ways to continue this objective. For youth, we provide life skills and lessons through our Youth Empowered Program (YEP) in schools and other venues throughout Camden County.”


Advertising Can Do Much More

Many of us think of advertising as an effort to simply make sales. To simply gain exposure or provide a cleaning solution for the kitchen. It’s often used as a way to only target the upper-echelon of society who have financial means.

Well, advertising can do much more.

It can build awareness about a cause that could support the often-forgotten members of our community. It can promote an ideal and fight a negative message. That’s exactly what the CCCADA team did with their campaign. They organize Camden’s youth and alert the community to the problems surrounding drug and alcohol abuse.

So now, when you think about advertising, what comes to mind?

Anyone looking to donate to the campaign and the CCCADA are more than welcome to contact Marshall and her team to learn how a contribution can be made.


If you’re interested in learning more about EMC Outdoor and our involvement with CCCADA, fee free to contact us using the form below.

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