Social impact is a huge piece of Viacom's cultural legacy. We spearhead conversations about the issues that matter most to our passionate, diverse fan communities. We've tackled AIDS awareness with KNOW HIV, taken on domestic violence with No More, and increased school attendance and graduation rates with our long-standing partnership with Get Schooled. With 1 in 3 American households grappling with addiction—and the U.S. Surgeon General about to release his first-ever report on alcohol, drugs, and health in America—this was an issue of unprecedented scope and national import, with a major impact on our audience.
We partnered with organizations like the Surgeon General, Facing Addiction, SAMHSA and Schireson to help guide our creative approach to this complex issue with focus groups and data. We learned that 76% of our fans know someone who has been treated for addiction and/or is in recovery, and, although 81% of our fans are more likely to help someone struggling with addiction if they have more information, only 16% know where to find that information. From our focus group research, we learned that an emphasis on empathy and patience would resonate better than the classic anti-drug PSA tropes of shame, blame and shock value.
Based on our learnings, we established the following objectives: 1) Encourage dialogue to break down shame and stigma, 2) Drive awareness of helpful resources, and 3) Celebrate the success found in recovery, and spread hope.
We worked with creative experts in the pro-social space to develop a simple and direct message—"Listen"—which looked to end stigma and promote open conversation. "Listen" is an actionable first step to support a loved one in the throes of an addiction struggle.
In a search for an editorial approach for the "Listen" campaign, research led us to make empathy our strategic approach; additionally, we built a sense of community throughout the campaign by acknowledging that each addict has a different story, but the struggle is universal. To reach the audience segment most actively seeking guidance, we expanded our target audience to include addicts themselves and individuals supporting addicts. Clarifying this audience also clarified an auxiliary goal: addressing the need for centralized, unbiased resources in the addiction space.
Strategically timed to coincide with the release of the first-ever Surgeon General's report on alcohol, drugs, and health, Viacom launched the campaign on November 18 with Listen: Facing Addiction in America, a 30-minute commercial-free television event that aired in a roadblock across 11 of its major networks, combining discussion and music to bring the Surgeon General's findings to a large, engaged audience.
The message was amplified with a "Listen" PSA campaign, distributed in partnership with the Ad Council, which reframed viral content trends to emphasize empathetic listening, and direct audiences to www.heretolisten.com, which was continually maintained to host new content.
Additional strategic "Listen" activations included cathartic on-the-ground "Listening" booths and online testimonials; custom, animated on-air bumpers; targeted digital and social media content; radio PSAs; outdoor, digital billboards; employee outreach programs; and speaker events.
Each piece of content across all platforms was customized to communicate a specific message, but each message fit into the larger framework of the "Listen" campaign. Our data analysis guided our platform choices, ensuring the most effective environments to reach viewers. All content and messaging drives to heretolisten.com, a custom hub hosting additional campaign content and linking out to clinical resources vetted by our partner organizations.
With its compelling storytelling and broad reach, "Listen" is an ongoing success. Over 2M viewers watched the TV special, during which samhsa.gov reported an overwhelming spike in phone calls. 196K visitors and counting have visited Heretolisten.com, spending an impressive average of 3 minutes on the site, and the #HereToListen conversation is spreading with 38.1M overall impressions and 56.3K engagements.
Viacom is committed to this campaign, and we have been working closely with our insights and data teams to explore new technologies to advance the "Listen" cause, and identify upcoming key moments when the "Listen" message will reach an even larger audience.
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