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Hard-hitting Family Centre adverts launch awareness campaign

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A hard-hitting campaign has been launched as a “call to action” to tackle Bermuda’s social ills.

The ads from the Family Centre charity picture young children at play, each wearing labels of the problems they could become.

T-shirts with the words ‘absent father’, ‘drug abuser’, ‘teen mother’ and ‘gang member’ are calculated to grab attention at a time when the charity is coping with a surge in referrals.

Family Centre director Martha Dismont said: “The community asks us what can be done to combat teen pregnancy or gang violence, and we say that it starts at home, in early childhood, with how we are either nurtured or not. This is about putting the work at the front end.”

She added: “Our new advertisements depict innocent children representing harmful circumstances that threaten their well-being.

“The actual children in the pictures are models, and not Family Centre clients. We are grateful to them and to their families for supporting the campaign.”

Created over a nine-month period by designers RBK Advertising, the series of six ads will primarily appear in print over the coming days. The charity hopes to post them on websites as well. The campaign is financed by Allied World Assurance Marketing.

Family Centre director of development and community education Peter Carey said: “These ads were ready months ago. We made very sure that we engaged with the parents of the children, who were all very eager to be part of the ads. We asked people, our colleagues, board members and staff to get involved.

“We did not want to shock, but we knew they would raise eyebrows. We wanted to depict issues that we see as bad things that happen to good people.”

The campaign marks Family Centre’s third foray into social marketing the same techniques employed in health crusades such as antismoking ads.

Mr Carey said that the charity sees increasing numbers of referrals for abuse and neglect.

“The concept is to change social norms. We are seeing three times as many families as we used to. For a very long time, we got 100 a year at best. For that reason, we’re doing more social and community-based work, as well as this kind of marketing.

“These messages are meant to horrify people a little, by the juxtaposition of the message with kids who are clearly so sweet and innocent. Our point is that children are all sweet and innocent; that’s how they are born. But as their environment debilitates them growing up, that’s how we end up with these horrific outcomes.”

He added: “We think it’s our job, not to be inflammatory, but to make caring a bigger priority, so that we have less emergency counselling and abuse counselling and more of what we like to do: parenting education and community organising.”

Mr Carey said the core idea was “a call to action”.

“We want to give people something to think about that will help change their priorities. We believe children must come first if we want to change educational outcomes, violence, gang problems, or even just with our work force that all ties right in with the well-being of our children.

“People want tangible, practical solutions to our problems, but sometimes that can be recognising that your child may need a more nurturing relationship. It can be hard on people, especially people who didn’t get that themselves.

“All the ad campaigns end up being about the power adults have to be kind or cruel. When you’re sarcastic, sadistic or callous to a child, you can change the course of their life. And the opposite is true as well.”

Each ad asks: “If our children’s futures were this obvious, would we do something about it today?”

RBK Advertising created the images free of charge.

Company president Katy Kelly said: “The purpose of social marketing is to change public perceptions. RBK is committed to helping Family Centre to do that because we want to defend the innocence and well being of children.”

Useful website: www.tfc.bm.

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Published August 08, 2011 at 2:00 am (Updated August 08, 2011 at 9:45 am)

Hard-hitting Family Centre adverts launch awareness campaign

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