iSMA News Desk

Managed by Julie Hentz and Nathaly Aya

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Providing solutions to empowering citizen engagement, sustainability and wellbeing

The 4th European Social Marketing Conference: Antwerp, 6-7 September 2018


It was a great pleasure to host the 4th European Social Marketing Conference in magnificent city of
Antwerp this year, The European Social Marketing Association is consistently surprised by the
enthusiasm, passion and diversity of work by communication and marketing specialists who take
part at each event. We always look forward to what is a fantastic event at the cutting edge of Social
Marketing theory and practice across Europe and the wider world. This year we received a record
number of paper submissions and yet again the impact, professionalism and level of work presented
continues to rise and undoubtedly helps enrich social marketing research and practice not only in
Europe but globally.

At this year’s event we peer reviewed over 115 academic and practice submissions resulting in 54
presentations and interactive sessions across two days presented by social marketing and behaviour
change professionals, governments and NGOs from 27 different countries.

At this time when Europe and the world face a large number of complex social problems and
increasing demand from citizens to be heard, we believe that this conference will be able
to provide some of the answers about how current social challenges can be addressed
effectively through processes of co-production, value creation and work with citizens.

Social marketing is a broad church that encompasses a range of disciplines all of whom are
concerned with using data and evidence to develop and deliver citizen focused effective and
efficient social programmes. This year’s European conference demonstrated how  experts and policy
makers are coming together to apply what we know and best practice form a range of specialist
areas. The conference also demonstrated how social marketing is being applied in an ever increasing
range of subjects. This year at the conference the use of social marketing principles was
demonstrated in fields as diverse as crime reduction, reducing Co2 emissions, active transport,
smoking and alcohol harm reduction, road safety , community cohesion and resilience, migration
and even for military purposes to reduce the harm form improvised explosive devices.

A number of key themes emerged from across the keynote presentations, workshops , posters and
break-out sessions. The array of best practice examples shared and evidence of what works
presented at the event together with some great presentations about how behavioural programme
should be structured highlighted three big take way points from the event.

  1. The added value of applying social marketing principles is being increasingly recognised and demanded by governments and key organisations around the world. Social marketing is being seen as a key set of organising principles under which the contributions from behavioural science, an economics, psychology, social planning and policy and implementation sciences can be harnessed and coordinated.

  2. Experimentation, sound study design and evaluation and learning from both success and failure are key to future progress. We need to get even smarter about the way we spread and speed up the uptake of good practice and stop interventions that are not working.

  3. In addition to systematic planning there is a need to ensure that all social programmes also adopt a systems perspective and seek to build coordinated multi sector responses to the complex and interrelated challenges that we face. This means investing in coalition building and stakeholder development and management. This also means focusing action upstream at policy development and selection as well as action directed at supporting individuals and selection as well as action directed at supporting individuals and communities.


Prof. Jeff French, CEO, SSM, Emeritus Professor Kings College London & Brighton University


The 6th World Social Marketing Conference: Edinburgh, 4-5 June 2019 Early Registration & Call for Abstracts

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)

Last Updated on Thursday, September 27, 2018 11:39 AM
Case Study: Sarape Social in Guadalajara, Jalisco Employed Aspects of Social Marketing Frameworks to Address a Substance Misuse Problem in Young Adults

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: 


“Many Roads Lead to Rome” – An Interview with Bill Novelli

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.

Second Quarter International Social Marketing Association Board Meeting Overview

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.

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