Ad Council increasing autism awareness

13 Jul

This is one of the questions that comes up a lot in many discussions. Many people (myself included) believe that an increased awareness of autism, both amongst parents and professionals, has led to much of the increase in the number of people identified with autism.

So, can awareness be increased? Apparently, the Ad Council. and their partner in a recent ad campagin, Autism Speaks, think so. They recently ran an ad campaign to raise awareness about autism.

The campaign was effective enough that the Ad Council is including it as one of their recent success stories by posting a ‘case report‘ on it.

After only three months in the marketplace, the campaign reached No. 2 among 50 active Ad Council television campaigns. In the nine-month period from April to December 2006, the “Odds” campaign earned almost $47 million in donated media.

That’s a lot of exposure, and a lot of money. That would have purchased a lot of, say, full page ads in USA Today. But, it wasn’t the amount of exposure alone, it was the tone of the campaign. The Ad Council did some background research before they started spending a lot of donated ad money. What did they find?

It became apparent that there was a disabling fear among parents regarding autism, a fear that led them to tune out information.

I am sure we could have a nice lively debate about how much fear was used in the ad council campaign which focused on the “odds” of a child being diagnosed with autism. But, their background research was indicating that the fear mongering campaigns (think print ads with giant vaccine syringes for one example) were actually driving people away, making them “tune out”.

Hmmm, the previous ad campaigns, run by organizations populated with public relations people, were making people “tune out”.

But, did the campaign work? Yep, they increased awareness of autism. The ad council claimed a 35% increase in awareness. More importantly, “Parents are also increasingly likely to take action as a result of the campaign.” Parents are talking more about autism, seeking out autism websites and, most importantly, they are talking to their doctors about autism more. That last bit has to impact the number of kids identified with autism.

The campaign also benefited their partner in this: Autism Speaks. Traffic to their website spiked to nearly 450,000 visitors a month. That would be about 15,000 visitors a day. For reference, Kev has noted that this blog gets about 3,000 unique visitors a day. Not bad for someone who built the traffic to this website on words, not money.

Perhaps no other childhood disorder has come into the public eye as quickly and widely as autism. The “Odds” campaign has successfully made autism a more common subject for family concern and discussion. By doing so, the campaign has laid the groundwork for an effective follow-up phase, in which parents can be educated about the early signs of autism and empowered to take action that will significantly enhance their children’s development. Considering the widespread nature of the disorder, such action could potentially benefit nearly 2 million children in the U.S., significantly improving the health and welfare of future generations.

First off: whoa! 2 million children?!? I can only imagine that they are including children with other, non-autism, conditions who might be helped by parents seeking out information. Or, are they considering future generations? Or, the American children who are now grown up into adults? That aside, the ad council (and their partner Autism Speaks) appears to be agreeing that raising awareness about autism can lead to parents taking action. In other words, parents will be more likely to get their kids properly identified…increasing the “epidemic” of autism by counting the uncounted.

The Ad-Council/Autism Speaks alliance has been continued for another three years.

The campaign has thus far generated more than $125 million in donated print, broadcast and online media and is credited with raising awareness of autism by more than 43%.

Raising awareness. More people will be identified. Is the Ad-Council adding to the epidemic?

In closing I have to add: where is the campaign about adults with autism?

7 Responses to “Ad Council increasing autism awareness”

  1. Rose July 13, 2008 at 14:53 #

    I feel for my son every time there is an ad for raising autism awareness. I don’t know what to say.

  2. mayfly July 13, 2008 at 15:09 #

    I’m confused. Are you against autism awareness? I don’t think the campaign will have quite the impact that Autism Speaks proclaims. There was a problem before with pediatricians not being autism aware. I doubt there are many pediatricians left who are ignorant of the early signs of autism.

    Still the campaign will reach some who do not for various reasons take their children to the doctor. If any of those children can be enrolled in early intervention programs, so much the better for those children, their parents, and society as a whole.

  3. Sullivan July 13, 2008 at 16:26 #

    I am all for autism awareness–getting more parents to note the signs and get their kids diagnosed.

    I am also for more adults being properly identified (a topic that is not a part of the Ad Council campaign, apparantly).

    The main point is that autism awareness has an effect on how many people get identified. There is a lot of pushback from people who promote the idea of an “epidemic” as to whether awareness can have this effect. I find it interesting that Autism Speaks accepts the idea that awareness can be raised. They seem to be “on the fence” a lot about issues like “the epidemic”. Well, if they decide to come off the fence with more epidemic talk, it will be hard for them to argue against the “greater awareness” concept.

  4. Catana July 13, 2008 at 18:45 #

    The real question is “Awareness of what?” The media, largely because of Autism Speaks, is barely aware that the world is full of autistic adults, many of whom live perfectly functional lives. As long as Autism Speaks dominates the public forums, the focus will be exclusively on pitiable disabled children who will grow up to be pitiable disabled adults.

  5. lurker July 14, 2008 at 04:44 #

    I think it’s chilling that such campaigns may have been needed to cause parents to ask their children’s doctors about autism. Any of the autistics out there should be being diagnosed, whether the parents know about the condition or not.

    With the parents of ones to be diagnosed needing to know things about the condition, they should be able to rely on the doctors who they bring their children to, not on the media. It sounds like some doctors may have not been doing their job if that was so. Anyway, I don’t see how such a prevalent condition could be unknown to so many people by now.

    This shouldn’t turn into an obsession where parents become impulsively fearful that their child may have the condition even if they don’t have it. I think there could be a lot of over diagnosis of autism, which could also mean that there are other conditions that misdiagnosed children may really have that aren’t being identified.

  6. isles July 14, 2008 at 14:42 #

    I’m not really sure greater awareness is such a good thing. Diagnosis or not, kids who need speech therapy would probably still be recognized as needing speech therapy, and so on. It seems to me that the main benefit of an autism diagnosis is accommodations in school, but for the 2- or 3-year-old child, the biggest thing that’s likely to happen is the parents falling into the clutches of woo.

  7. Patrick July 14, 2008 at 20:46 #

    “Perhaps no other childhood disorder has come into the public eye as quickly and widely as autism.”

    I wish some of these folks would learn to quit tooting their own horn and realize they are sooo wrong. Kanner and Asperger were working on these conditions in the mid 1940’s.

    American Medical Association and Psych Associations, not to mention U.S. Gov’t research (agency’s) has blown it for more than 30 years on this one. (I’m 46, and just properly? diagnosed last year, more than 30 years after I told USN Peds about problems they had no response for.)

    What other conditions have had to wait Half a Freeking Century to get recognized and addressed? AIDs newp. Fibromyalgia? newp. Sleep Apnea? Maybe. Muscular Dystrophy? (Well I won’t even go there, but I hear there’s quite a backlash about some of That awareness, including the hypocritical or bigoted main advocate. oops I guess I went there LOL.)

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