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Alcohol-Free Pregnancy Awareness

Le Challenge
Since 2008, Burson-Marsteller Norway has coordinated a public awareness campaign for the Norwegian Directorate of Health about the risks of drinking alcohol during pregnancy. Not only had alcohol consumption among Norwegians risen sharply over the past few years, but media coverage had increasingly focused on conflicting and inconsistent evidence on whether and to what extent alcohol has harmful effects on the unborn child. The team needed to increase awareness of the Dictorate’s message of total alcohol abstinence during pregnancy, to motivate pregnant women to abstain from alcohol during pregnancy and to incentivize health personnel to provide pregnant women a clear message: “During pregnancy, the only option is total alcohol abstinence.”

Due to the sensitive nature of the issue, the team chose to use humor to approach the serious topic, by framing alcohol abstinence during pregnancy as a positive message. The message strategy focused on facts, as opposed to emotions, in order to help pregnant women who might be uncertain or confused and seeking factual information. A nationwide survey among pregnant women revealed that nine in 10 use the Internet as their primary information source. As a result, the campaign also focused on teaching pregnant women to be Internet savvy and to trust only reliable sources.

The execution of the campaign consisted of four key elements: short films, advertising, a launch seminar and proactive media work. The team used animations in the information material (short film, print and online media advertising) to lighten the tone of the messaging and prevent the target group from viewing the campaign as an authoritarian message. Three animated short films that highlight the benefit of positive, alcohol-free choices during pregnancy were aired on national television, during the commercial block in movie theatres, and were made available online via YouTube and reliable health information sites. The Directorate also produced an informational website to which it could direct those interested in learning reliable information from relevant partners such as doctors, scientists and health care personnel. Finally, a seminar event was held to discuss the key findings from the nationwide survey among pregnant women and promote a national discussion of women’s health and family issues. The seminar was attended by journalists, health associations and representatives from a variety of interest groups.

The campaign has successfully educated pregnant women across Norway, with strong results around behavior and attitude changes among the target population. Data from a 2012 survey of pregnant women showed that 90 percent believe that small amounts of alcohol during pregnancy are harmful to the child. In 2009, 23 percent of the population partly or fully agreed with the allegation that alcohol intake during pregnancy has no negative effect on foetus development. In 2012, only nine percent of the population agreed with this.