Government, Health Care, and Marketing, PR & Advertising

Campaign aims to get the lead out

Well Design Studio, Ingalls Pictures collaborate on project to raise awareness.

September 20, 2019
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Lead video
A series of video ads will be shown in conjunction with the campaign to get lead out of homes. Courtesy Ingalls Pictures

(As seen on WZZM TV 13) Two young media professionals are joining forces on a multigovernmental campaign to get the lead out of homes in urban Grand Rapids.

Well Design Studio and Ingalls Pictures, both based in Grand Rapids, won a contract to devise a campaign to educate Michiganders on the threat of lead in old homes. The campaign is done in partnership with the state of Michigan, the city of Grand Rapids and the Kent County Health Department. 

The project is led by Hugh Ingalls, co-founder and executive producer of Ingalls Pictures and co-chair of the Mayor’s Millennial Advisory Board, and Josh Leffingwell, partner and creative director at Well Design Studio, who also serves on the Mayor’s Millennial Advisory Board.

The campaign aims to raise awareness there are greater lead hazards than just contaminated water.

“After Flint, most people who associate anything with lead kind of associate it with water, and while there are chances of having lead in water in Kent County, the chances are pretty small,” Leffingwell said. “Where you’re actually more likely to find lead is in paint.”

Well Design is developing a website with a self-assessment tool, which will allow users to identify lead hazards in their homes and contact the county to potentially receive remediation funds. Leffingwell’s team also is designing billboards and bus advertising for the campaign.

The critical piece of the campaign is a series of video ads done in collaboration with Ingalls Pictures. One of the videos features a little girl playing hide-and-seek at home. As she’s counting, the viewer starts seeing all the lead hazards in the home that are impacting her.

“It’s like this double meaning where she’s going up the stairs saying, ‘Ready or not, here I come,’ and it’s also talking to the parent, like, ready or not, whether or not you are ready for your kid to be playing in this house filled with lead, here she comes.”

Another video shows a girl eating a sandwich at the kitchen table as paint is peeling off the walls and windows, and a fan is blowing the particles into the air while she’s eating.

Having two millennial-aged men on this project also is important to reach the target audience, Leffingwell said. He added it’s easy to forget most parents living and raising children under 8 years old in these homes also are millennials.

“If we’re targeting millennials, why would we have anybody other than millennials on this project? So, we can do this messaging specifically to millennials,” Leffingwell said.

The message and design of the campaign is modern, in the sense that it’s heavy hitting and utilizes dramatic lighting and sound effects. Leffingwell said millennials don’t like being advertised to, so a successful video ad should draw their interest and keep their curiosity until the last eight or six seconds of the video when the message is finally delivered.

“It’s meant to create some mystery around … OK, what am I seeing here?” Ingalls said. “It centers on a little girl … if you have your headphones in, there’s some really dramatic bass … we have the water dripping, and we’re showing the paint chipping.”

The campaign has videos in English and Spanish based on the demographics it’s trying to reach.

“When the state or the county wants to put together an ad campaign, traditionally, it’s kind of a scary story mixed with happy faces,” Leffingwell said. “It’s this sort of weird mix of … we have this big problem, but we don’t want to scare you with it.”

Leffingwell hopes the video ads won’t instill a paralyzing fear in their audience but rather instill them with a mobilizing fear and inspire parents to take action.

Lead is particularly threatening in homes that were renovated before lead-based paint was outlawed in 1978. Leffingwell said lead dust could be kicked into the air just by opening and closing windows in these old houses.

Many homes with lead paint can be found in the 49507 ZIP code. Approximately 80% of homes in the area are potentially affected. These homes are usually older and occupied by low-income residents. 

“It’s self-fulfilling because the lead problem impacts primarily older homes, and the people who go into older homes and don’t necessarily have the capability to do renovations to remediate from lead are people who are low income.”

Homes in the 49504 and 49503 ZIP codes also have been identified to have a high risk for lead contamination.

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