Social Norms Campaign Strategy - Final Report

In the fall of 2001, MSNP received a grant from NHTSA to implement a demonstration program testing the ability of a high-visibility, high-intensity paid media campaign to change perceptions and reported behaviors associated with alcohol-related crashes. The NHTSA grant, combined with ongoing grant resources from MDT, presented the opportunity to build upon the campaign foundation that had been established during the previous three years and fully test the potential of the social norms model.

Establishing an Experimental Design

In order to evaluate the effectiveness of this intense media intervention, a new experimental design was created to allow comparison of two different levels of social norms media exposure. A high-dosage paid media intervention area was established in 15 western Montana counties; this area would be compared to the low-dosage free media environment of the rest of the State. By focusing the paid media on a limited, regional market rather than using these resources to dose the entire State, MSNP was able to achieve the level of message saturation in the intervention area necessary to see measurable, statistically significant changes in behavior. This new, quasi-experimental design increased the scientific rigor of the project by allowing for a controlled test of the efficacy of the social norms approach to reduce impaired driving in a statewide population of young adults.

In order to make the paid media intervention as powerful as possible, fear-producing media efforts (such as ads that show mangled cars or child-sized coffins) were eliminated or severely restricted in the treatment counties. According to social norms theory, fear-based media efforts compete with positive social norms messages by solidifying already-exaggerated misperceptions about the prevalence of impaired driving, and thereby potentially reduce the impact of a social norms campaign. The low-dosage counties across the remainder of the State were allowed to operate with popular fear-based campaign themes.

In addition to implementing a new experimental design, MSNP chose to focus on a larger group of young adults of legal drinking age, 21-to-34-year-olds. This demographic group is also of particular interest given its high percentage involvement in alcohol-related crashes.

Selecting the Campaign Target Area

Fifteen western counties in Montana (Beaverhead, Broadwater, Deer Lodge, Flathead, Gallatin, Granite, Jefferson, Lake, Madison, Mineral, Missoula, Powell, Ravalli, Sanders, and Silver Bow) were selected as the campaign intervention area (see figure 2 ). Although these intervention counties cover only one quarter of the geographical area of the State, they are home to almost 50 percent of Montana's 21-to-34-year-old population.23 
Furthermore, this area comprises two Designated Marketing Areas (DMAs) for media distribution: the Butte/Bozeman market and the Missoula/Kalispell market. By purchasing airtime solely within these two DMAs, MSNP was able to reach all of the 15-county intervention area with the paid media placement while limiting such media exposure elsewhere.

Figure 2
Western Counties Selected For Experimental Intensive Media Intervention
figure 2 - click for long description

Sampling Frame Selection, Survey Methodology, and Collection of Data

The target population was surveyed a total of four times: before the intervention began (Time 1), during the media intervention (Time 2), at the end of the intensive paid media campaign period (Time 3), and three months after the conclusion of the campaign (Time 4). Ten- to twelve-minute telephone interviews were conducted at each time point by trained interviewers through a computer-assisted telephone interviewing laboratory. A point-in-time phone survey was chosen over mail and other survey methods because of its cost-effectiveness and ability to achieve the desired sample size. Sampling frames purchased from Genesys Sampling Systems provided targeted lists of Montana households with residing adults 21 to 34 years old. A random selection of households was drawn from the list.

MSNP carried out its Time 1 baseline survey in November 2001 with 1,000 respondents across the State. The Time 2 survey of 1,000 respondents was conducted during the media intervention in November 2002; 1,005 respondents were surveyed at Time 3, when the paid media distribution ended in March 2003. The Time 4 survey with a reduced sample size of 517 respondents was conducted in June 2003, three months after purchased media had ceased.

Each of the four survey sample groups provided respondents ranging in age from 21 to 34. The demographic characteristics of each sample are reported in table 2.

Table 2
Demographic Characteristics of Statewide Telephone Samples
N of Cases
Gender (%Female)
Mean Age
College Student (%)
Living with a Partner (%)
Living with a Child (%)
Lived Most Time in Last Six Months in Western Target County (%)

Selection of Message

Using the results of the Time 1 baseline survey, MSNP developed a positive, inclusive social norms message designed to promote the healthy norm in a manner that was credible and appealing to the target group: MOST of Us Don't Drink and Drive.

Television, radio, print and theater ads were created, along with various posters and promotional gift items, all unified by this clear, consistent message. Specific ads focusing on statistics ("MOST Montana Young Adults [4 out of 5] Don't Drink and Drive"), noting the majority practicing protective behaviors (such as taking cabs and using designated drivers) or highlighting the local norms in each intervention county were created under this "umbrella" message.

Figure 3
Most Of Us Prevent Drinking and Driving Campaign Posters
figure 3a - click for long description
figure 3b - click for long description

Media Placement and Exposure

The original goal of the campaign was to produce two 10-week media flights broadcasting social norms messages in the intervention counties. MSNP far surpassed this goal, producing almost 15 months of paid radio and television advertisements, supplemented by local and college newspaper advertisements, theater slides, indoor advertisements, billboards, and print and promo items. The intensive paid media intervention ran from January 2002 to March 2003, with additional public service announcements (PSAs) and theater slides running through December 2003.

Many of the 15 intervention counties are sparsely populated. Six are home to fewer than 600 21-to-34-year-olds; three contain fewer than 300. Reaching such a dispersed rural population required a creative marketing campaign with a heavy focus on television airtime, since no one newspaper or radio station could effectively reach the entire target audience.

A high-exposure market plan was devised, focusing on the Butte/Bozeman and Missoula/Kalispell DMAs. MSNP purchased $390,200 worth of television and radio airtime, $17,500 worth of newspaper advertisements, and $1,300 in indoor ad space. In addition, $87,300 worth of promotional items bearing the campaign message were created. These items, which included T-shirts, key chains, pens, and windshield scrapers, were distributed throughout the State via universities and MDT's Safe Kids/Safe Communities coalitions.

“Horse” TV Commercial

Scene: In a barn, a typical Montana ranch family prepares to ride their horses.
Script: In Montana, our best defense against drinking and driving is each other. MOST of Us® Prevent Drinking and Driving. We take care of our friends, our families, and ourselves. Four out of five Montana young adults don’t drink and drive. Thanks for doing your part.
Onscreen Tag:
Sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

MSNP created nine television advertisements and nine radio advertisements, some of which were "lifts" of the audio from the television ads. These advertisements were always positive in their message and delivery. The television ads aired during two media flights, the first lasting five and a half months, the second lasting six months. The two radio flights lasted six and a half and six months, respectively.

Television and radio advertisements are measured in gross rating points (GRPs), which measure the total volume of delivery of a given message to a specific audience. GRPs are calculated by multiplying ad "reach" (the number of people who see the ad at least once) by "frequency" (the average number of times each person saw the ad). For example, if 1,000 people saw a television ad an average of three times, that ad earned 3,000 GRPs. GRPs are difficult
to calculate exactly; for this reason, campaign message delivery was also measured using the exposure testing questions included in the intervention surveys.

According to the calculations of the media placement firm, the first television flight averaged 1,400 GRPs per month on broadcast and 3,100 GRPs per month on cable. The second flight averaged 965 GRPs per month. The first radio flight averaged 650 GRPs per month, the second 1,065 GRPs per month.

In addition, print ads were taken out in four local and four college newspapers, theater slides appeared on over 20 movie screens, and a billboard design appeared in seven locations for a two-month period.

The control portion of the State was dosed with television and radio public service announcements, local and college newspaper ads, and promotional items. It is important to note that other, fear-based media campaigns that were
restricted in the intervention counties continued to run throughout the rest of the State during the campaign intervention period. A summary of the social norms campaign media is contained in table 3.

Table 3
Most of Us Media Activities
Television INTERVENTION COUNTIES 31 weeks of ads @ approx 1,400 GRPs/mo 17 weeks of ads @ approx 965 GRPs/mo  
NON-INTERVENTION COUNTIES PSAs sent to 18 tv and 41 radio stations 6/02    
STATEWIDE     8016 PSAs 4/03-9/03 03; “street talk” during 6/03
Radio INTERVENTION COUNTIES 32 weeks of ads @ approx 650 GRPs/mo 18 weeks of ads @ approx 1,065 GRPs/mo  
Local Papers INTERVENTION COUNTIES 100 ads 50 advertisements  
College Papers INTERVENTION COUNTIES 86 ads 16 advertisements  
Promo Items INTERVENTION COUNTIES 37,400 items 8,400 items  
NON-INTERVENTION COUNTIES 37,700 items 11,800 items  
Theater Slides INTERVENTION COUNTIES 24 screens for 8 wks 8 screens for 16 wks; 19 screens for 12 wks 19 screens for 12 wks
Billboards INTERVENTION COUNTIES   7 ads for one mo. Each @ avg. daily circulation of 7,000  
Indoor Ads INTERVENTION COUNTIES   9 ads for 1 mo. in 4 Bozeman restaurants; 2 ads for 1 mo. in 1 Missoula restaurant 9 ads for 3 mos. in 4 Bozeman restaurants; 21 ads for 3 mos. in 5 Missoula restaurants