Have you ever seen one of those large banners plastered across the side of a building and wondered how it got there? Well, in April 2015, Candice Marti and her team at Louisiana Public Health Institute (LPHI) would find out all of the ins and outs of exactly what it takes to make it happen.
Working with LPHI and Morgan & Co to Create a Healthier Louisiana
Marti, communications director at LPHI had just made the move from California to Louisiana to lead the team’s communications efforts.
Her timing was spot on.
The smoke-free ordinance in New Orleans which prevents smokers from smoking indoors had passed just months before and was set to go into effect in a matter of weeks. It also just so happened that NBA All Star weekend in New Orleans was approaching, an event that brings high-profile people and large crowds from all over the nation.
Her team jumped on the opportunity to get the message out there. For two weeks, they literally worked around the clock with their partners at Morgan & Co to bring their message to life.
Dodging unfavorable weather conditions, navigating tricky permit systems, and racing against time, they managed to pull off the seemingly impossible.
It was a big moment for LPHI, a nonprofit whose mission is to promote and improve health and quality of life through public-private partnerships with government, foundations, academia, community groups and private businesses in the community.
But Marti was no stranger to quick-thinking marketing tactics. She got her career start with an agency in Irvine, California that produced industrial videos for automotive companies where she helped manage big names like Mercedes Benz and Kia Motors America.
Marti has touched brands you most likely recall from childhood like Power Rangers and Tomagotchi. Remember those??
A few turns led her to a company that worked with entrepreneurs and inventors, where she marketed popular brands from Bare Minerals makeup to Body by Jake fitness and Oreck. She eventually landed at an advertising agency in San Fernando Valley that specialized in training celebrities for endorsements before finally making her way to the south.
Still with us?
We sat down with Candice Marti and her team at LPHI to learn more about their work improving health in a state better known for its staggering statistics, and how they make messaging magic with limited resources.
Do you have any stand out stories from your time working with celebrities?
Dennis Miller made fun of me once on the phone and I was horrified. He was hilarious! I got in trouble because I laughed about it, and my boss told me don’t encourage it. Ha! I’ll never forget that. The day Dennis Miller made fun of me.
Any other celebrity stories?
I worked with Ryan Seacrest and he was one of the nicest people I’ve met. He is the sweetest human being. He didn’t know me, and he walked up to me and gave me a big bear hug and asked me how I was doing. And he is one of those people when he is talking to you, you are the only person in the room. He is really interested in what you’re saying. He was very present, nice, and genuine.
Can you tell me about the role that you serve in now?
As a communications director, I lead strategy for LPHI for communications and marketing, as well as all of our programs: Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco Free Living (TFL), one of our biggest programs. That’s where we spend the majority of our media dollars. We have ReachNet which is patient centered research and is more of the clinical trial support and investigative research work. In total, we have seven focus areas: tobacco prevention and control, clinical transformation, family health, HIV/STI, healthy communities, health services research, and behavioral health. My day-to-day team is five including me.
We recently just rebranded LPHI and we achieved our goal in October of this year which was huge. We went through a complete rebranding: all collateral, new logo, a brand new website, and the team rocked it.
What are you working on right now?
We are starting to get more involved in policy. We’ve been writing position statements on the new healthcare bills that are coming out from a public health perspective. We’ve been working on our 20th anniversary and a lot of that is writing about where public health is right now. We’ve created a blog on our site and we are getting a lot of our folks to jump into the thought leadership space. There are so many different issues under the umbrella of public health: health care, prevention, housing, education. All of these social determinants of health fall into the world of public health.
Can you tell me about the Tobacco Free Living program (TFL)?
We have everything from our statewide campaign, including a youth campaign and youth prevention cessation. We do work with disparate communities that are disproportionately affected. We have a tobacco cessation campaign that we just ran in Shreveport, and now we’re running in Baton Rouge.
What does that look like?
I’ll let Lauren Conrad, Communications and Tobacco Policy Manager speak to that, as she leads the program.
LC: We recently did a pilot campaign in Shreveport. We realized that in Louisiana, African-American males have a higher propensity of smoking and a lower utilization of our cessation services. So that was an audience that we needed to specifically target.
We picked the best avenues to reach this audience. We found out what worked in Shreveport, and what didn’t work, and then we launched to Baton Rouge. In Shreveport, we realized that doing a heavy media campaign was not going to reach this audience. We did a smaller media push, and a larger community focus. We got more strategic about how we utilize the community in Baton Rouge, and we’re doing that now.
And what was the best way to reach that audience?
In media, we did bill boards and radio. We had community encouragers with our community of color network. We picked stakeholders in the community who are immersed and know a lot of people and are able to really get in the community and get our messaging from a high-level standpoint and from a neighborhood level community.
What are the challenges you come up against?
CM: We are expected to do with small budgets what companies do with massive budgets.
Behavior change and sales are different. It’s one thing to get someone who’s already drinking soda to switch from one soda to another, It’s a whole other thing to get someone to stop a behavior all together.It’s a much tougher thing to do, and we often find ourselves doing it with limited resources, and we have to get super creative. We’re lucky with TFL that we have a budget, whereas with a lot of our other programming, we have to find ways to market these programs that don’t cost a lot of money. On the ground outreach, and on the ground advocacy is a way to do it.
LC: I think in a way because we don’t have millions of dollars to spend, and we have to get creative, it forces us to be more strategic in what we’re executing. We have to make sure that it works the first time.
I’ve been with LPHI for six years and worked solely with TFL. It’s exciting. We get to run a statewide campaign each year. Our budget has significantly decreased, so we’ve gotten more creative. We focus on the secondhand smoke policy. That’s where we get to move the needle, by eliminating smoking in public places, and that’s why we focus our efforts on those campaigns and that is where my work with Morgan & Co has always been.
Can you tell me more about your work with Morgan & Co?
Morgan & Co has been very helpful and supportive. We partner with them to come up with strategic, statewide campaigns and they are our media buyer. They are always coming to the table with smart, strategic campaigns. The biggest, most fun campaign we did together was for the New Orleans smoke ordinance implementation campaign. We called it our “monumentation campaign.”
Can you tell me more about campaign?
New Orleans going smoke-free was a big moment for us. The smoke free ordinance passed, and it was going to be implemented in the city. You have 90 days to tell people it’s coming, and we had to think of a smart way to get that message out there. So we purchased a side of the Freeport McMoRan building and with Eric of Morgan & Co and our partners at Trumpet Advertising, we came up with a concept.
We had a deadline for a big press conference on April 22 on the smoke free ordinance passing. It was going to happen no matter what.
Here’s some city fun facts: NBA All Star is the only time during the year that the city of New Orleans does not allow those building wraps. We had to get a special sanction to get the building wrap approved. And the weather conditions have to be perfect to get the building wraps on.
And April is one of the windiest months of the year.
I remember it vividly.
There was Eric driving downtown at 6 o’clock in the morning to make sure the building wrap installers are on the scaffolding. They had to come up and down because of the weather.
I was on the phone with Eric at 6 o’clock in the morning. I’d go work out, and drive by and call Eric, to check to see if the installers were there. He would drop his kids off at school, and then drive by to check too. He was all in.
Wow! That is a great story.
It gets better. Because of weather, we couldn’t get it all the way up in time for the press conference. So Eric and the Solomon Group finagled this amazing replica of the building wrap. We put up the replica for the press conference and it worked.
Eric pulled off a miracle because the whole process takes at least two months, and somehow we did it in two weeks. We got national impressions on the banner, and we got a ton of PR stories. We set out to measure impressions and views, and it was successful. And a big bonus was that anytime the network did a national pan of the city during All Star weekend, our building wrap was in the shot.
Morgan & Co always takes ownership of things. That’s a great quality to have in a partner. We don’t think of them as a vendor, we think of them as a strategic partner. They are really engaged. Eric takes ownership and he finds solutions.
What do you value the most in working with Morgan & Co?
They are always there when we need them. Big or small. It’s unique to have a media buying partner that won’t scoff at you when you need a one-off, quarter page ad. They care just as much about the smaller projects as the larger projects. They are there for a $2 million buy or a $250 buy. Things happen quick with ordinances, and we often find out things as they happen, which means we need things turned around quickly. Morgan & Co is very willing to get us what we need as fast as we need to get it, and be creative about it.
What are you working on right now that you’re excited about?
We are trying to set the stage for a full-comprehensive statewide ordinance that covers every workplace. Right now it’s only restaurants and public work places. We want it to include bars and gaming. We’re pushing the envelope in some ways and doing hard-hitting messaging. This is the first time we’re really able to use digital media creatively. We need to build momentum.This campaign has been designed to push that statewide campaign.
What is the campaign called?
It’s called Making a Killing. We are targeting the tobacco lobbyists, tobacco dollars, and going after why we still don’t have a statewide ordinance. We need to get people activated and excited about finally having a comprehensive ordinance.
Where can we find out more about it?
The campaign launched in mid-April and MakingaKilling.la is the website.
You have a wealth of experience in your field. What advice would you give to someone just beginning their marketing career?
No matter how much you plan, it won’t go according to plan. Be open. Be flexible. Take advantage of opportunities, even if they don’t sound exactly like what you want to do. In marketing, there is so many different things that you can do with that experience. Always be learning, always be curious and be open to doing something you didn’t think you would do.