The Ad Council Helps Parents Improve Kids’ Oral Health with a Text Brushing Challenge

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Shot of a father and his daughter brushing their teeth

Kids hate brushing their teeth, and parents hate the constant struggle of reminding them. But dental decay is the single most common chronic childhood disease in the United States, affecting 16.5 million children – especially children in low-income families.

In a national survey, the Ad Council found that 75% of parents report that their kids sometimes or frequently forget to brush their teeth. The Ad Council wanted to find a way to reach parents and encourage them to make sure their kids brushed their teeth regularly. They decided to launch a text messaging campaign to reach parents with vital information and encouragement about brushing their teeth

How It Worked: A 5-Day Brushing Challenge with Text Reminders

The Ad Council launched the Children’s Oral Health Campaign, with a simple call to action: “2min2x”, or getting kids to brush their teeth for two minutes, twice a day. If parents could get their children to complete the simple task of brushing their teeth every day, they could prevent their children from experiencing severe teeth pain later in life. As part of the campaign, the Ad Council created a text messaging program consisting of a five day brushing challenge, followed by regular tips, reminders, and educational alerts on children’s oral health.

The “2min2x” campaign was promoted across TV, radio, billboards, public transportation, and digital ads. Parents could opt in to the five day brushing challenge in either English or Spanish. Once parents joined, they were asked how many children they have, the age of each child, their time zone, and at what times they would like to receive text message reminders in the morning and evening (6am/pm, 7am/pm, or 8am/pm).

The challenge began with parents receiving a text message reminder at the hours they selected every day for five days. Parents were then asked to text back “Done” if their children brushed their teeth for two minutes straight. The Ad Council sent back a customized text message based on the parents’ response. Parents whose children hadn’t brushed their teeth received a message encouraging them to stay on the ball, while those who met the challenge received congratulations.

At the end of the five days, parents received their final scores and were given the option to repeat the challenge. They were also added to a general campaign to receive ongoing reminders, tips, and educational alerts on oral health. For this ongoing initiative, the Ad Council interacts with parents through the voice of “Joy,” who is supposed to be a fellow parent herself – someone who can offer recipients advice and insight, and make parents feel like they’re communicating with a peer. The Ad Council uses quizzes and other types of interactive content to get parents to actively participate in the campaign.

Why Text Messaging?

Text messaging was the best way for the Ad Council to reach all their target families. As part of the Children’s Oral Health Campaign, the Ad Council also developed a smart phone app. But not everybody could use it. The Ad Council found that within their target audience, only 58% of Spanish speaking parents and 50% of English speaking parents owned a smartphone.

Low-income households, where tooth decay is especially prevalent, are especially open to text. Households earning less than $30,000/year text twice as much as households earning more than $75,000/year.

A text message could reach every parent. Moreover, because the messages were set to the parents’ schedules, the texts provided a timed reminder.

Couple In Pajamas Brushing Teeth And Using Mobile Phone

Success: Text messaging helped parents improve their children’s oral health habits.

The Ad Council has already seen parents changing their behaviors. On average, parents responded that their children brushed 5 out of the 10 possible times during the challenge. This number increased to 7 if the parents chose to repeat the challenge, which 20% of participants elected to do.

By using text messaging as a primary communication channel, the Ad Council was able to reach parents, educate them, and affect a notable impact on their children’s oral health.

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