Social Marketing Campaigns

Dear John Campaign

An important demand reduction strategy is an education and awareness campaign aimed at boys and young men.  Such a campaign should tailor the programmatic materials from the First Offender Programs for early education as a possible way of reaching young people in their formative years. Experts studying First Offender Programs have reported males saying, “Why didn’t I hear any of this twenty years ago?”

Campaigns should focus on the negative consequences of purchasing sex, from the public and private health problems like the spread of HIV and other STDs, to the grim facts about who runs the sex trade and how customers are helping traffickers flourish and hurting those who has been trafficked. The purpose is to make the harm visible. The messaging needs to be carefully developed to reach the target audience (young males before they have become users/customers).  While this seems like an overwhelming task (given the ubiquitous cultural messages glorifying sex and glamorizing prostitution) we should take heart from other successful social marketing campaigns that have targeted intractable or entrenched social practices.  Two come to mind:  the recent campaign against cigarette smoking, and a similar campaign to combat domestic violence.

One social marketing campaign is the “Dear John” campaign in Atlanta, Georgia. “Dear John”  is a public education campaign to end the commercial sexual exploitation of children, with Mayor Shirley Franklin, the Juvenile Justice Fund and a wide-range of supporters.  The campaign seeks to educate and activate audiences to help stem the problem.  The campaign features a letter from Mayor Franklin: “Dear John:  You have been abusing our kids, prostituting them, and throwing them on the street when you’re done. As Mayor of Atlanta, I have promised to listen to people. Kids are no exception.   When you buy sex from our kids, you hurt them, you hurt our families, and you hurt our city.  It’s over John.  No more Not in Our City. – Mayor Shirley Franklin.”