iSMA News Desk

Managed by Julie Hentz and Nathaly Aya

Have an article you would like to share? Contact [email protected]

We encourage you to join in June 2019 for the worlds largest gathering of social marketing and behaviour change professionals. A range of government, third and private sector speakers will be hosted alongside over 60 reviewed breakout sessions and interactive workshops. The best part is that you can be part of the programme…


If you have a great case study, piece of research or on-going project you want to share with the behaviour change community then we encourage you to submit an abstract to the conference. Are you trying to change behaviours for the better and using marketing or communication as a part of that? If yes then we want to hear from you. Help inspire others, share knowledge and drive forward best practice in Social Marketing by sharing your work at WSMC 2019.

The World Social Marketing Conference will take place in Edinburgh in June 2019 and will be a must-attend event for professionals interested in helping others create meaningful, long-lasting and positive behaviour change.

Early Registration and the call for abstracts for the 6th World Social Marketing Conference is now open, find out more here –

ASSOCIATION MEMBER EARLY BIRD RATES (valid until 31 October 2018)
For a limited time Social Marketing Association members can register for less than standard early bird rates.
To register at these rates please use the link which is available in the member area of your social marketing association website or from your association representative.

Associations Public Sector (25 23 places available)*: GBP 349.00 (includes VAT)
Associations Private Sector (25 22 places available)*: GBP 450.00 (includes VAT)


Oblatos is a neighborhood in Guadalajara with a high rate of substance abuse in young people. There have been previous addiction prevention campaigns that had been carried out in the area with limited success. Sarape Social approached the challenge differently. Utilizing an approach that included social marketing theory, they targeted 4 public high schools, instead of a broad, city-wide messaging blitz. Sarape Social worked with local specialists to identify the behavior they were trying to achieve as their product and identified relevant supporting research on the specific audience. They then involved the students and community to inform and shape the specific challenge and shape the messages.

The key background and approach involved:

There were three phases to this project. 


  1. Formed a team of psychologists who specialized in addiction. Also, we included marketers, publishers, designers and teachers. Social marketers lead the project.
  2. Researched addiction behaviors in Oblatos.
  3. Researched to identify the intervention area and visited high schools. Identified one for the pilot program. 


  1. Informative sessions and workshops with psychologists to inform students about the use of addictive substances.
  2. Workshops with students handled by designers, marketers, and publishers to conceptualize and design different campaigns.


  1. Workshops with students were coordinated by designers, marketers, a community manager and publishers to conceptualize and design the campaigns which incorporated the students. 
  2. 6 teams of students presented their campaigns to a jury in a final contest where parents teachers and people from Oblatos contributed. 
  3. All of this contributed to a winning campaign, which was produced by Sarape Social. 

Results from the project showed that : 

  • 2,000 people were impacted by this project. 
  • Students from Oblatos were able to recognize their potential to transform social problems using creativity and innovation. 
  • Students, parents and teachers were able to learn about the dangers of substance abuse. 
  • This project helped strengthen government-community relations.

For more: 



by Gael O’Sullivan

Many of us know the name Bill Novelli; he is a long-time thought leader in the social marketing field. But did you know that Bill began his illustrious career as a brand manager for Lever Brothers (now Unilever) during the Mad Men era in 1960’s New York City? While at Lever Brothers, Bill honed his marketing skills selling consumer products like soap and toothpaste. Even though this work paid the bills, Bill was seeking something more.  So he decided to ‘work both sides of the street’, and left Lever Brothers for a job with an ad agency.  Wells, Rich & Greene was a hot agency at the time, and while there Bill had the opportunity to manage the public television account.  His first step was to attend a press conference with Joan Ganz Cooney. Bill was struck by Joan’s ability to ‘sell’ education through a new program called Sesame Street.  The idea that marketing could be applied to work that makes the world a better place provided Bill with the spark he had been seeking, and he soon moved to Washington DC to help promote the Peace Corps.  

While at Peace Corps, Bill met Jack Porter, who had also attended the University of Pennsylvania and had previous advertising experience at Ogilvy and Mather.  Soon the two like-minded colleagues identified a gap in the marketplace – no one in Washington was offering marketing services beyond traditional advertising and public relations. Porter Novelli was established in 1972 during the Nixon administration, offering ‘marketing communication’ services for health and social issues to public and private sector clients.  Bill and Jack tapped academics like Phil Kotler, Alan Andreasen and Paul Bloom to broaden their knowledge and expertise.  The academics were calling the type of work Porter Novelli did ‘social marketing’, and thus a new niche market was born. 

Since their financial resources were limited, Bill and Jack sold Porter Novelli to Needham, Harper and Steers.  This created financial stability for the staff and organization, and allowed Porter Novelli to keep their brand name and pursue the kind of work that mattered to them.  In the early days major clients included the National Cancer Institute and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.   They also worked beyond public health with organizations such as the Environmental Protection Agency.  Bill had an interest in international issues, and soon teamed up with Bill Smith at the Academy for Educational Development to conduct a review of the US Agency for International Development’s (USAID) contract with an advertising agency.  This led to Porter Novelli joining the Futures Group and other partners on a USAID-funded global social marketing project called SOMARC (Social Marketing for Change), which partnered with pharmaceutical companies to promote contraceptive use in developing countries.

As Needham merged into Omnicom, the huge new parent was heavily focused on commercial clients, and Bill decided in 1990 to join CARE as its first Chief Operating Officer, having previously served as a CARE board member.  Five years later Bill founded the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, once again channeling his marketing prowess into an organization that combats the tobacco industry’s marketing tactics and strengthens tobacco policies and media advocacy.  Having learned how to ‘block and tackle’ at Lever and the agency world, Bill learned to pivot and apply marketing to social change initiatives.  “In my mind, marketing was not robust enough.  It’s about individual behavior change, but you also need to change the environment, using policy, media, technology and advocacy,” he said. 

Bill’s next challenge surfaced in 2001 when he took the helm as the Chief Executive Officer at AARP, a membership organization of some 40 million people aged 50 and older.  At the time, AARP was benefitting from a surge in new membership thanks to the baby boomer generation, and Bill saw the logic in using his marketing expertise to attract and retain new members.  AARP had been a Porter Novelli client previously, and Bill had always admired their mission and their work.  AARP is a social impact organization working on issues such as financial security, healthcare and independent living for older persons, and they use policy advocacy to achieve their goals.  One of AARP’s biggest accomplishments under Bill’s leadership was helping to get prescription drug coverage included in Medicare.  They were also successful in opposing President Bush’s attempts to privatize Social Security.  

In 2009, Bill reinvented himself yet again by joining Georgetown University and establishing the Global Social Enterprise Initiative (GSEI).  He has built a strong team of colleagues who receive funding from a variety of private sector entities such as the Bank of America Foundation, VF Corporation, Nestle, and the AB InBev Foundation to implement projects that address social, health and economic development needs.  GSEI is action-oriented, according to Bill, and goes beyond academics to apply social marketing principles to real-world problems.   In addition to leading GSEI, Bill still teaches courses such as Corporate Social Responsibility, Nonprofit Management, and Principled Leadership for Business and Society to MBA students.

Speaking of leadership, when asked about his reputation as a thought leader, Bill noted that you don’t have to be a CEO to be a leader.  In reflecting on his own career, how the social marketing field has evolved, and advice he would give to new social marketers just starting out, Bill shared the following insights:

  • Work for someone you respect and can learn from.  Don’t waste your time with people who will not teach you.  You should interview them.
  • Don’t be afraid to take risks.
  • Be technically sound.
  • It helps to have a partner by your side to support you (in this case, Bill’s wife Fran).
  • You might want to start in the private sector.  There is a lot to learn about shared value, corporate social responsibility and other private sector tools that can drive social good.
  • As our field has evolved, we’ve gotten smarter and better, but the problems have gotten more difficult. Everything now is fragmented and virtual, and it’s hard to build a cohesive team in the ‘gig economy’.  
  • New technology tools work for you and against you.  We all have too much information, and the irony is that people are actually now less informed and susceptible to fake news.
  • Many roads lead to Rome – there is not one path to reach your goals.  

While at AARP, Bill wrote two books, 50+ Give Meaning and Purpose to the Best Time of Your Life, and Managing the Older Worker.  He is toying with the idea of writing a new book titled Confessions of a Social Marketer, which is a play on the title of advertising legend David Ogilvy’s book, Confessions of an Advertising Man.  Let’s hope he writes this book soon so that we can all continue to learn from one of the most talented and respected social marketers in the world.


by Julie Hentz

The iSMA Board second quarter meeting occurred June 12th and 18th.  News includes:

  • A goodbye and sincere thanks to Nedra Kline Weinreich and Kelley Dennings for their contributions to the Board’s work as they leave their posts. We welcome newly elected board members, Luca Uguzzoni, Karis Schoellmann, Diogo Verissimo who each have fascinating backgrounds that will enhance our work at iSMA. Please stay tuned for more information on our new board members in the coming weeks on the iSMA website.
  • The iSMA Business Plan and the Constitution were discussed, approved by SMANA and AASM. ESMA has some requested changes which will be addressed in July between iSMA and ESMA.
  • Voting for Board position vacancies, Vice President, Treasurer, and Webinar Manager will take place in the next few weeks with potential candidates having put forth their names.
  • Regional Association Representatives to the Board have been identified, other than the Africa Social Marketing Association, and will serve as the line of communication between iSMA Board and the Associations.
  • Outgoing Treasurer, Kelley Dennings provided a review of the iSMA financial report for 2018 to date. The state of the budget is strong from new association member funds.
  • The World Social Marketing Conference will occur in late spring 2018 in Edinburgh, Scotland. iSMA is slated to host some sessions including: 1. Differences and Similarities: Social Marketing, Behavior Change Communication, and Communication for Development; 2. The Next Generation Speaks panel, featuring four younger members of the profession; and 3. An overview of iSMA objectives and achievements within the Social Marketing community in its model as an alliance of regional associations.
  • In July, the United Nation’s High Level Political Forum will meet. The Alliance will be hosting an advocacy session during the Forum to encourage the UN and other funding agencies to include behavior change and social marketing as part of their development projects moving forward. Patrick Cook will attend and report back to iSMA on this activity.

Please contact [email protected] with any questions regarding the 2nd Quarter Board Meeting.


By Gael O’Sullivan

Over 1,200 delegates attended the second Social and Behavior Change Communication (SBCC) Summit in Bali, Indonesia on April 16-20 this year, almost double the attendee count over the 2016 event in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. They gathered to discuss “Shifting Norms, Changing Behavior and Amplifying Voice: What Works?” The Bali audience was heavily represented by bilateral and multilateral donor-related stakeholders, especially those related to USAID and UNICEF, from a wide array of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), universities, local government agencies, and independent consultants.  Notably absent were a focus on the social marketing field and a strong showing of private sector companies.  Sponsors included Sanofi, Population Services International (PSI), and EXP Social Marketing.

The Summit format included three tracks following the sub-themes of ‘What works’, ‘Making sense of now’, and ‘Voice and agenda setting’, which included a mix of plenary sessions, pre-formed panels, oral presentations, ‘comms talks’ (similar to mini TED talks), skill-building workshops, poster sessions, multimedia showcases, and an exhibit area with about 50 organizational exhibits.  There were also a number of auxiliary events such as workshops, technical meetings, and networking events. Over 1200 abstracts were received and over 300 reviewers selected the final presentations. 

Sessions dealt primarily with health topics, although the organizers continue to strive for more social and behavior change examples from other sectors such as agriculture, education, the environment, and peace/social justice. Much of the evidence-based best practices and literature in SBCC come from the health sector, given the long history of using behavioral science and social marketing principles to improve health behaviors.  

Some highlights were:

Behavioral Economics – Channing Jang of the Busara Center for Behavioral Economics gave an engaging and thought-provoking talk on the links between behavioral economics and social and behavior change communication.  He noted that behavioral economics has a ‘W.E.I.R.D.’ problem.  Behavioral economics models have been developed by ‘Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic’ nations, and in developing country contexts do not account for how variables like scarcity impact behavior and decision-making.

Social Norms – Several presenters noted the importance of distinguishing between injunctive and descriptive norms when designing behavior change strategies and interventions. Injunctive norms refer to people's beliefs about what ought to be done in a situation, and descriptive norms refer to beliefs about what is actually done by most others in one's social group.  

I moderated a panel session on ‘Social Networks and Social Norms”. A fascinating presentation amongst the four dealt with child marriage in India.  The comprehensive set of interventions used in this example included: life skills education, parent dialogues, teacher engagement, and counseling with boys and men.  Impact data showed statistically significant increases in the percentage of girls staying in school, girls marrying after the age of 18 and girls who said they felt confident they could convince their parents to delay marriage.  

Technology – Advances in technology are dramatically changing the SBCC space.  This abstract summarizes a particularly interesting presentation in a session on “Cutting Edge Research Methods”.

Digital Vaccines Based on Neuropsychology to Reduce the Risk of Lifestyle Diseases Bhargav Sri Prakash, FriendsLearn, Inc. 

"fooya!" is an mHealth intervention that is being developed as a vaccine candidate for prevention of Diabetes by FriendsLearn, which is a mission-driven technology startup. The product is an application based on Neuropscyhology and Cognitive Behavior Therapy that harnesses immersive mobile gaming technology. The intervention has been shown to achieve statistically significant outcomes in randomized controlled blinded clinical trials. A recent partnership between the co-authors and endocrinologists at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh aims to assess a specialized adaptation and extension of "fooya!". “Fooya!” has been developed to empower pediatric Type 1 diabetes patients with behavior design mechanisms that can reinforce strategies to better manage their condition. It is also used to augment standard of care protocols for treatment of newly diagnosed patients. 

Know Your Audience – Kamden Hoffman from Save the Children, Melanie Morrow from ICF, Inc. and I conducted an interactive, Skill-Building Workshop on ‘Knowing your Audience’.  The session is based on work recently published by the World Health Organization and other partners which examined the evidence for social, behavioral, and community engagement(SBCE) interventions that improve maternal and child health:;jsessionid=E60651BCF3E97E549235FA0823C31AB5?sequence=1

The session focused on: 

  • Understanding 10 implementation principles contributing to effective SBCE intervention approaches, emphasizing the first two principles related to formative research, audience analysis, and SBCE theories; 
  • Applying these principles using real world case studies; and 
  • Applying examples from the case studies to participants own work, discussing opportunities and challenges. 

Two of the ten implementation principles for SBCE included in the Evidence Map for SBCE interventions were highlighted: 1) Design programs based on formative and summative qualitative and quantitative evidence, and 2) Design programs based on a clear audience analysis, using social change or behavior change models and theories.

Declaration – At the conclusion of the Summit, Warren Feek of the Communication Initiative drafted a resolution on behalf of all the conference delegates to help guide the SBCC field going forward. Follow this link to read the draft statement and comments from the community:

Link to resources and presentations:

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