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From the 2nd Annual Shorty Social Good Awards

Fresh Empire’s “The New Wave” Contest -- the FDA’s First Ever Hip Hop Tobacco Prevention Effort

Finalist in Instagram Presence


Fresh Empire is the first-ever tobacco prevention campaign designed to prevent and reduce tobacco use among at-risk youth who identify with the Hip Hop peer crowd (African American, Hispanic, and Asian American/Pacific Islander youth ages 12-17). The campaign's strategy to meet this primary objective centers on influencing changes in the target population's beliefs, attitudes, and intentions toward tobacco use.

Research shows approximately 5 million multicultural youth are open to smoking or already experimenting with cigarettes. It is also estimated that youth who identify with the Hip Hop peer crowd are 50% more likely to use tobacco than mainstream youth. While Hip Hop culture encourages positive values such as working hard to be successful and overcoming personal struggles, at times it can also promote imagery and messages portraying tobacco use as a desirable behavior.

To achieve the campaign objective and change positive perceptions around tobacco use in Hip Hop, Fresh Empire uses a variety of integrated marketing tactics including influencers, digital experiences, social and digital media, traditional media, and experiential efforts. While all of the above tactics are used, the campaign prioritizes the strategies that focus on direct interactions through social media platforms, influencers, and events. In an effort to maximize engagement on our social channels, we launched The New Wave rap competition, in which Hip Hop teens voted for their favorite up and coming tobacco-free artist to be the Leader of The New Wave and win a headlining spot on a cross-country event series.

Strategy and Execution

The strategy for The New Wave was to showcase six up-and-coming Hip Hop artists that the audience voted on throughout three different rounds of competition. Each round consisted of challenges such as performing a cypher and playing with a surprise live band. This content ran on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, creating two-way conversations with the audience about tobacco use and prevention. Through these successful conversations, the campaign was able to create many teachable moments. The goal of this content was to drive the audience to the Fresh Empire website to vote for their favorite rapper. After voting, participants were encouraged to share the contest on their own channels to show their support for their favorite tobacco-free artist and further ignite the conversation around living fresh and tobacco-free.

The New Wave Instagram content included videos, images, gifs, boomerangs, and Instagram Live stories. The creative featured on Instagram performed very well for the campaign given the target audience's high presence on this particular platform. The creative combined relevant and relatable facts about tobacco usage with culturally authentic insights, and was then reinforced by the influencers' personal stories and beliefs.

Not only did this content run on the Fresh Empire Instagram channel, but the artists also utilized their own social media channels to encourage their fans to vote and engage with the competition, including utilizing Instagram Live and Snapchat stories to promote the contest. This was important because the campaign was able to reach the audience where they seek relevant content - on social media, and more specifically on Instagram, a predominately image and influencer heavy platform.

There were various engagement goals throughout the life of this campaign. The campaign intended for the audience to engage with the content Fresh Empire was posting, including liking, sharing, and commenting on the content. The ultimate goal was to get the audience to vote for their favorite contestant. A voting feature found on the website gave an artist 5 votes if the content was shared on social media, compared with one vote if the content was not shared on social media. This was extremely successful, as the campaign received hundreds of shares from the artists' fans.

The winner of The New Wave received the opportunity to join the Fresh Empire New Wave event series, where they performed across the country with other influential rappers. This gave the audience further incentive to engage in the competition and the opportunity to engage with their favorite tobacco-free Hip Hop artists on social media as well as live at events.

This amplification not only helped to create authenticity and credibility within the audience, but it also helped to achieve the campaign goals of shifting perceived norms around tobacco use within the Hip Hop community.


Social media is an integral part of our overall engagement strategy, and we relied heavily on it (particularly Instagram) to promote The New Wave and engage with our target audience. We posted promotional content across Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, and it resulted in Fresh Empire's most successful digital experiential effort to date.

Key measures of success resulting from "The New Wave" program:


○Total (Across all channels) - 68,990,804

○Instagram - 6,827,027

●Exploratory Engagements (Views, Clicks, Likes, Reactions, Web Visits)

○Total (Across all channels) - 4,895,462

○ Instagram - 765,517

●Active Engagements (Votes, Shares, Comments, use of #TheNewWave)

○Total (Across all channels) - 250,979○Instagram - 362

Not only did the artists post in support of the competition on their own channels, their networks and other well-known artists posted about the competition as well. For example, world-renowned rapper Eminem posted on behalf of one of the contestants that resulted in an increase of almost 6k followers to our social channels – which was a lift of 86%. In addition to posting on behalf of one of the contestants to his 13M followers, he also changed the link in his bio to our contest page, as well as created his first Instagram Story featuring one of our contestants. The result of these posts was an increase of tens of thousands of votes for the contestant. This was a completely organic experience, and Eminem was not compensated to promote our contest.


Entrant Company / Organization Name

Rescue | The Behavior Change Agency, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – Center for Tobacco Products (CTP)


Entry Credits