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Public Service Announcements, YouTube Style

Congratulations to Dr. John Clarke, winner of the 2009 Flu Prevention PSA Contest sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Here is his winning entry:

In July of this year, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius invited all Americans to create videos about preventing the spread of seasonal flu and the H1N1 virus. Contestants were to post their entries on the video sharing site YouTube. The contest generated more than 200 entries. A panel of public health and communications experts selected ten finalists, and the winner was decided by public vote. More than 50,000 votes were cast.

Why would an organization like HHS, with a critical message to communicate, choose to hold a YouTube contest? I can think of several reasons:

  • It engaged the community.  The production teams for those 200+ videos, their families, friends, and associates were all actively involved in learning about flu prevention, as were the all of the citizens who voted.  50,000 votes might not be a lot by American Idol standards, but for a Public Service Announcement, it’s impressive!
  • It took advantage of viral marketing. YouTube videos are easily shareable. They can be e-mailed, socially bookmarked, hyperlinked, embedded on other blogs and web pages, tweeted, re-tweeted, facebooked and MySpaced by you, your friends, your friends’ friends… get the picture? The flu is already viral. Why shouldn’t the prevention message be viral, too?
  • It expanded the agency’s creative potential. Managing a nationwide video contest was surely not a simple task. However, HHS had a lot to gain from taking advantage of the creative energies of willing volunteers. Could a similar outreach strategy work for your organization?

Here’s where you can watch and share the finalist videosToothbrush Prank! is one of my favorites. What are yours?

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