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Statutory rape

Statutory rape


Three ads about teen pregnacy from United Way of Greater Milwaukee. A recent study found that Milwaukee has the 7th highest rate of birth to teens in the USA. In 2006, the United Way of Greater Milwaukee approached Serve, a non-profit advertising agency, to request help in raising awareness about the problem.

Serve focused on statutory rape for this particular campaign because in Wisconsin it is a huge part of the teen pregnancy crisis. In Wisconsin: 71% of babies born to teen girls are fathered by adult males over 20 years old.  In 20% of the cases, the fathers are at least six year older than the mothers.
Serve give us the opportunity to look behind the scenes making a campaign with some exerpts of a video made during talks in a focus group.


The ads were tested in several focus groups of inner city teens and young adults ages 15-25 (over half of the participants were teens moms). The campaign tested very well and was universally embraced by the target audience for its ability to attract attention and spur in-depth discussion about the pervasive problem of statutory rape. Serve did recognize, however, that audiences outside the target found the campaign highly objectionable, which is why it did not move forward.

The objective of this tactic was to change public perceptions about the now largely accepted behavior of adult males having sex with young teenage girls and to spur discussion about the issue.
Objective is to make people aware of the problem of statutory rape so that they cannot continue to ignore it. Most important is to capture the attention of statutory rapists and let them know that what they’re doing is wrong, it’s rape.
Testing the campaign in several focus groups results in the knowledge that the only way to be successful in reducing statutory rape and ultimately teen pregnancy is getting inner city families (where the problem of teen pregnancy is most prevalent) to talk about statutory rape. In other words it is important to understand that statutory rape is the key problem.

The ads did run briefly as an indoor (bathroom stalls) campaign. However, the larger billboard campaign was cancelled at the last minute.

Thanks to Serve for the background information.

Update 10-02 Maybe I’ve seen too much shockvertising why this campaign didn’t shock me at all. But doing a search makes me clear that the statutory rape campaign made a lot of hassle and misunderstanding last weeks.
The campaign came by on many blogs and sites. most made comment: “Offensive, disturbing, obscene”. And most commenters thinks it is about pedophilia. It isn’t. One of the comments at Copyranter: “Do they not realize that pedophiles don’t fantasize about women’s bodies? They like little girls the way they are.”
Statutory rape is something complety different than pedophilia.
In my opinion the origin of the problem is the sexualizing of our society. Youngsters are getting physical mature at a more early age.

As seen on the focus group video the target audience don’t have any problems with the used images. Most of the blogs and sites which make a hassle about the campaign don’t belong to the target group.
As Heather Aldrich from Serve said to “It was never for Caucasian women,” she said. “It was for the largely African-American and Hispanic inner-city youth—ages 15 to 25.”
Aldrich said it’s a shame the ads never got a chance to find their intended audience, which didn’t find the images offensive in the least.

What can we learn from this? In the age where information is available for almost everybody, and where everbody have a opinion about everything, you can conclude that focussing on target audiences isn’t enough anymore. Audiences outside are getting more important in public relations and image.




United Way of Greater Milwaukee

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