When you think of government campaigns, typically the word “fun” isn’t the first adjective that comes to mind. At LMD, we’ve worked with many local, state, and federal government clients to educate the public, often on some pretty tough and not exactly fun-filled topics, like littering, human trafficking, sexually transmitted diseases, and terrorism.
Frequently, the best approach to these subjects is a serious one. However, when we’re brainstorming, we still ask ourselves, “Is there any way we can make this fun?” Because let’s be honest: fun is memorable, fun is watchable, fun is…well, FUN. Taking a serious subject and making it fun also subverts expectations—and that is where we think the real magic happens.
Making things fun—especially difficult or controversial subjects—isn’t easy. In fact, it’s one of the hardest things to accomplish in marketing. Take littering, for example. Littering is bad and people shouldn’t do it. It ruins neighborhoods, clogs waterways, and kills wildlife in astonishing numbers. But, when working on the Prince George’s County Beautification Initiative, we knew we had to grab the public’s attention with something different. We went through dozens of ideas and days of brainstorming, thinking about litter from every possible angle. Every idea, no matter how silly it seemed, was considered.
We kept coming back to ideas that made us laugh. For example, wouldn’t it be fun to take the perspective of the litter? It’s being thrown on the ground unwillingly instead of going “home,” where it belongs (i.e., in a trash can or recycling bin). Mattresses feel abandoned when they’re tossed into creeks. Coffee cups get depressed while they roll down the street. Water bottles rejoice at being recycled. Reusable bags feel annoyed when they’re forgotten on trips to the store. And plastic bags? Well, they’re just jerks.
These ideas made us smile—so we decided to build the campaign around this concept. It’s successful because it’s memorable, eye-catching, and appeals a variety of age groups. Plus, this campaign was genuinely fun to work on—but it didn’t feel like work, and it shows in the whimsical imagery and copy.
How about terrorism? I can’t think of a more serious topic. Making anything related to terrorism fun would be irresponsible, right? But what if you make looking for signs of terrorism into a game that exposes how easy it is to miss obvious signs of suspicious activity? We all like to think, “I would TOTALLY notice someone leaving a bag in a suspicious place.” But would you really? Even at a festival or sporting event, where everyone—including you—is having a good time? For the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s “If You See Something, Say Something®” campaign, we created “The Challenge” video, which uses gamification to show how easy it is to miss the signs of suspicious activity, especially when you’re in a fun or unusual setting.
Not every solution can be fun—and creating fun concepts usually takes a lot more effort than a conventional, serious approach. But when a fun approach works, it can greatly increase campaign effectiveness. We’ve infused topics like teen drug addiction and military recruitment, among others, with fun. The results are fantastic, the clients LOVE the campaigns, and we as marketers love to work on these concepts.
Want to make your next campaign a little more fun? Contact us.