We partnered with The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) in launching the Rethink the Drink (RTD) brand and its first campaign to address excessive alcohol use across the state. Uniquely, Rethink the Drink isn’t focused on more typically explored areas like alcohol use disorder or underage drinking. Instead, the campaign focuses on excessive drinking in the general population and its damaging effects on health and community.
While 5% of Oregon’s population struggles with alcohol use disorder, nearly 20% of the population drinks at levels considered excessive by the CDC.
Moreover, the majority of this latter group of people are unaware they drink excessively and how it affects their physical and mental wellbeing.
Excessive drinking costs communities and the state nearly $4.2 billion per year.
While wealthier, white people consume alcohol at some of the highest rates, people who experience unjust stressors and disadvantages from racism and discrimination, including Black and Indigenous communities, as well as people with lower incomes, suffer disproportionality from the health harms and other consequences of excessive drinking in our state.
Rethink the Drink aims to shift the public dialogue about alcohol consumption from an often-celebratory perspective to one that considers its ubiquitous and deleterious presence in our communities. As Oregon is an alcohol-producing state, we leverage a delicate, non-judgmental tone that questions excessive drinking and alcohol’s role in our society, without advocating sobriety and demonizing our revered breweries, wineries and distilleries.
Utilizing research to develop a strategic communications and community engagement plan:
We conducted focus groups that reflected the racial, linguistic and geographical diversity of our state.
Based on the research, we collaborated with OHA and partners to develop a strategic communications plan that included:
Careful brand (name and logo) development to create the nuances that would help us cultivate receptivity and diffuse resistance to our messaging, which formative research showed can be challenging to do with excessive drinkers.
A multi-phase story arc in which the campaign’s messaging and creative shifts from:
Phase 1: individual health harms and definitions
Phase 2: collective harms
Phase 3: action
The first campaign that introduced the brand, informed Oregonians 21+ about excessive alcohol use, began to foster conversations about excessive alcohol use and drove the audience to the RTD website.
Paid and earned media tactics broken down by priority audiences.
Strengths-based communications designed to invite a conversation:
As the first campaign of its kind in the U.S., we developed messaging that avoided any blaming, shaming or heavy-handed admonishments for addressing excessive alcohol use. Rather, our brand:
Relied on a welcoming and friendly tone and visual style
Leveraged fact-based information on what counts as excessive drinking and the hidden tolls it can take on individuals’ health as well as the health of our communities
Avoided suggesting that people “don’t drink” so much as encouraged people to be mindful of when they drink, how often they drink and why
Recognized culturally specific practices or norms that may influence communities’ views of alcohol consumption
Demonstrated that alcohol affected people of all backgrounds and situations to elevate receptivity and reduce stigma
We also worked with partners such as the Construction Suicide Prevention Partnership (CSPP) to co-create infographics and content for their priority population, in their case construction workers, who are at higher risk for excessive alcohol consumption-related crises and death by suicide.
Communicating in culturally responsive ways:
With our experience leading COVID-19 related communications for the Department of Education and working with our trusted cultural consultants, we created two spots for the campaign in “Spanglish,” reflecting the many multi-generational and bilingual Latinx households in Oregon. These Spanish and English creative assets helped connect with audiences who often utilize both languages when it comes to health issues.
We strengthened the cultural relevancy of the campaign with the development of our only 60-second spot – one designed specifically for Spanish-speaking audiences.
We used paid media to launch the brand statewide and create general brand and campaign awareness while overdelivering to the Latinx and rural audiences. We employed programmatic digital assets, OTT, paid social, terrestrial radio aimed at our rural and Spanish-speaking audiences, newspapers and TV and Cable.
The Earned Media strategy was also robust, yielding 87 stories across the state in the first three months and $179,000 in incremental media value, not including our coverage in the New York Times.
A post campaign evaluation conducted by a separate third-party research firm revealed that 36% of Oregonians recalled the campaign after just one two-month flight.
62% of respondents agreed RTD messaging got their attention, 67% found the campaign content believable and 50% agreed the campaign got them to think about others’ drinking habits.
The findings from the campaign evaluation were overwhelmingly positive and demonstrated the campaign’s success in achieving its core objectives. People who saw the campaign:
Had more conversations about their own drinking, friends’ and family’s drinking and what constitutes excessive drinking
Thought more about their drinking habits
Were more likely to plan on cutting back their drinking
Agreed that alcohol seems to be everywhere in their communities and that it should have less of a presence
Support communities using local strategies to prevent excessive drinking more than those who did not see the campaign