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October 2004Vol. 5, No. 8Positive Messages Encourage Public's Involvement With Children

The public has a more positive view of children than a decade ago, and they respond better to positive messages about helping children than negative ones, according to a recent report from the Ad Council. The Ad Council conducted telephone surveys with more than 1,000 adults to determine their opinions about children and childrearing. When the 2004 survey results were compared with those of a similar survey conducted in 1995, the Ad Council found major shifts in the public's view of children.

Not only did the 2004 results indicate that the public has a more positive view of children, but they also showed that most Americans now acknowledge the importance of community support in helping parents raise children. The increased optimism of the 2004 respondents is also reflected in the fact that 78 percent indicated they would like to help children in their community.

The survey also tested the persuasiveness of various messages about helping children and found that messages that were the most effective with respondents:

  • Emphasized that helping kids results in stronger and safer communities
  • Talked about the personal rewards of helping kids
  • Focused on the future prosperity and security of the country
  • Emphasized compassion for parents

The Ad Council also gathered advice from more than 30 experts in the fields of advertising, marketing, and communications regarding the use of advertising to make children a top priority among the public. Their recommendations included the following:

  • Conduct research about the target audience.
  • Focus the message so that it is brief, clear, and constantly reinforced.
  • Make the message motivating and persuasive.
  • Be sensitive to tone, for instance, focusing on positive statements.
  • Choose the messenger carefully.
  • Keep current with demographic trends.

To read the full Ad Council report, "Turning Point: Engaging the Public on Behalf of Children" (funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the MetLife Foundation), go to the Ad Council website at (Editor's note: Link no longer active).

Related Items

The Ad Council's findings are consistent with recent research commissioned by Prevent Child Abuse America, a summary of which can be found in the June 2004 issue of Children's Bureau Express in "Prevention Leaders Strategize to Reframe Child Abuse Messages."

The Ad Council recently partnered with the United States Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families and the Collaboration to AdoptUSKids to develop a public education campaign, Answering the Call: A National Campaign to Encourage Adoption of Children from Foster Care. The campaign seeks to increase public awareness and encourage adoption of children from the public foster care system. Read more about the campaign in "National Campaign Urges Americans to Adopt" in the June 2004 issue of Children's Bureau Express or visit the Ad Council website at