Date of Defense:
February 27, 2014
Background: Although active commuting (walking or biking) to school has the potential to increase childhood physical activity, decr ease traffic congestion and improve air quality, rates of active commuting have declined substantially among children and youth over the past 40 years. As a result, the federal government has invested in Safe Routes to Schools programs, which aim to improve the safety of active commuting and encourage children (and their parents) to walk or bike to school, nationwide. The Alameda County Safe Routes to Schools program (ACSRTS) created a set of mock-up (i.e. rough draft) “I Choose to” campaign advertisements to increase the visibility of their high school program, which also promotes carpooling and public transportation.
Objectives: The objective of this study was to examine how youth respond to a set of mock-up “I Choose to…” campaign advertisements to inform the future implementation of a marketing campaign to increase visibility of the AC SRTS program.
Methods: Two focus groups were conducted, recorde d, transcribed and analyzed to meet the study objective. A total of 18 high school students participated in the study (8-10 teenagers per focus group). Close line-by-li ne coding was used to identify and organize the most prevalent themes for qualitative analysis.
Results: Participants related well to ads that cite money savings and social benefits to promote walking and carpooling and to ad s that cite autonomy and environmental benefits to promote biking. Ads that were more abstract were considered less relatable. Participants scrutinized aesthetic aspects of the mock-up advertisements and questioned the logical basis for some advertisements, thereby challenging the authenticity of certain slogans in their portray al of a realistic, everyday experience. Participants emphasized the need for clear, graceful language and apt us e of photographs to rein force and clarify key campaign messages.
Conclusion: Participants responded positively to the “I Choose to…” campaign and offered recommendations that can be used to improve the relevance, relatability, clarity and overall visual appeal of the campaign. Continued teen participation in the development of the “I Choose to…” campaign is likely to add further value to the campaign.