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More and more institutions, organizations using social marketing ads

An Estonian Vegan Society (EVS) ad at a bus stop in Tartu.
An Estonian Vegan Society (EVS) ad at a bus stop in Tartu. Source: Estonian Vegan Society

While it cannot be statistically confirmed that more social marketing advertisements are being run than before, over time, increasing numbers of organizations as well as public authorities are utilizing social marketing ads to spread their messages.

Social marketing ads are a striking and viable means of communication used to effect social changes. Experts are in no hurry to confirm whether social marketing ads are increasingly being used in Estonia, however it can be said that from time to time, given a certain seasonality, social marketing ads are sometimes even more prominent in public spaces than their commercial counterparts.

There are plenty of examples of social marketing ads in Estonia – these include Children's Foundation charity fundraising campaigns, but also Transport Administration and Rescue Board messages that call on people to act a certain way in certain, specific situations. Social marketing ads can also be used to promote a certain lifestyle, such as veganism-related ads.

Andero Uusberg, professor of affective psychology at the University of Tartu (TÜ), said that what social marketing and commercial advertising have in common is the attempt to influence behavior.

"We're used to commercial advertising, where this behavior consists of buying and consuming something," Uusberg explained. "In the case of social marketing ads, the circle of behaviors is somewhat broader. I can't give you a [specific] rule indicating that in the case of a social marketing ad, achieving the target is systemically easier or harder; it varies from campaign to campaign, just like it does with commercial ads."

Madis Ots, a founder and partner at Salama, the creative agency behind several such social marketing campaigns, said that he can't statistically confirm that the use of social marketing ads has increased. Nonetheless, in his experience, increasing numbers of organizations as well as public authorities over time are utilizing social marketing ads to communicate their messages.

"When public authorities have also had to cut their budgets, then it becomes necessary to think very carefully about where, what and how big to do it," Ots pointed out. "And depending on what the issues are that need to be addressed, then it may make perfect sense to run more and more precisely targeted campaigns, not fewer and large-scale ones."

Thus, for example, the Rescue Board runs its own prevention campaigns, but it will also team up with various partners for others. The Rescue Board previously only ran a couple of major campaigns a year, but nowadays covers a bigger number of campaign topics and periods each year.

Ots likewise cited seasonality as a keyword. For example, now that major Christmas-related commercial ad campaigns are over but ads for the European Parliament elections haven't yet taken over, January is, as it has been for years, a relatively quiet one in terms of advertising.

That in turn means that both airtime and ad space are more readily available, cost less and thus make for a great deal right now for running social marketing campaigns.

"Not only can you get them for cheaper due to the market situation, but many organizations are often given additional discounts or [advertising] for free precisely because it's a social marketing campaign and regarding a serious issue," the agency partner noted. "In that sense, this arrangement has been fairly typical for a very long time."

Uusberg added that the key to achieving the original objective being pursued via social marketing ads is whether there are any gut feeling-spawned connections in the causal chain of the socially desirable behavior that may be useful to change.

"But more generally, the point of this story is of course the fact that one such campaign or message alone is very rarely one that affects the behavior of a lot of people," the TÜ professor summed up. "But it may be quite useful when the simplest reminder comes at the right moment – to remind [them] at the moment when they have the possibility of making that choice, such as reminding drivers about traffic behaviors with signs on the side of the road. Then that influence may have a stronger impact."

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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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