Wednesday, December 1, 2010

In Honor of World AIDS Day: Can Celebrity "Digital Deaths" Prevent Real Deaths from HIV/AIDS?

Kim Kardashian, Ryan Seacrest, and Lady Gaga are all dead! No, not really...but they are considered "Digitally Dead" for today- World AIDS Day (December 1st). These celebrities and many more joined forces with a charity co-founded by singer Alicia Keys called Keep a Child Alive. The charity provides treatment, love, and support to families affected by HIV/AIDS.

For today's campaign, celebs were pictured in coffins, featured in "last video testaments", and pledging to stay digitally silent on their social media accounts (i.e., on Facebook and Twitter) until their lives were "bought back" by donors reaching a minimum of one million dollars total. Although the images of celebs in coffins were a little creepy, Keep a Child Alive co-founder Leigh Blake says:

"We're trying to sort of make the remark: Why do we care so much about the death of one celebrity as opposed to millions and millions of people dying in the place that we're all from? Its about love and respect and human dignity."

It is an interesting concept for a health communication/advocacy campaign. Usually when campaigns advocate via social media, it is done by bombarding their followers with messages and links to donate or sign up to assist the cause. Here, the campaign is trying to motivate donors by having an ABSENCE of the celebrities' voices. How powerful is that absence? Will the public really miss reading celebs tweets and facebook status updates? Apparently so. As of tonight on Twitter, Kim Kardashian had 5,467,107 followers and Ryan Seacrest had 3,683,658 followers. So whether we like it or not, the voices (and silences) of these celebrities matter in our communities.

While I do think the campaign will have large reach, I will say that their coffin posters left room for improvement. I've analyzed health communication campaigns on this blog before, and the key is always- "What is the cue to action? Does the audience know what they are supposed to do after seeing the poster/brochure/PSA?" Well- when I first saw this poster of Kim Kardashian, I had no idea what it was about. I had to Google and read the narrative about the World AIDS Day campaign for Keep A Child Alive. For this blog post, I had to blow the image up over 100% to read the text on the bottom of the poster. It reads,

"Kim sacrificed her digital life to give real life to millions of others affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa and India. That means no more Facebook or Twitter until we buy her life back". Then the charity website and text number were provided to accept donations. In future campaigns, they would want that text to be much bigger. It should not take the audience several minutes, a Google search, and a magnifying glass to figure out what they are supposed to do to help poor Kim get out of that coffin.

Overall, I give this campaign a B+ for creativity in using the "absence" of social media messages and targeting celebrities with a huge following and reach to potential donors.

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