February 10, 2022

Coalitions in Action – Cherokee FOCUS/ Drug Free Cherokee – Geotargeting Prevention Efforts


“Cherokee County is a suburb of Atlanta. Out of the 159 counties in the state, we are the seventh largest. Roughly 80% of our population, which is right at 270,000, drive to Atlanta for work every day, which makes it unique. We have found that it affects our youth because it takes parents longer to get home from work, so youth are left alone at home for longer, which factors into some of the things we see,” notes Sonia Carruthers, Executive Director & CEO of Cherokee FOCUS.

“A little while back, we conducted a survey, which is how we knew that kids were getting in trouble typically between the time of 3pm and 6pm, before their parents got home. We responded to this by increasing after school programming and encouraging the youth to get involved in after school activities to keep them occupied until their guardians returned from work. However, now with the pandemic, the amount of time youth spend at home has extended, and it’s now a mix of some parents working virtually and others commuting in.”

“Another thing we’ve noticed in our county is a drop in reports of youth taking medications or prescription drugs not prescribed to them. Although, we believe this drop was due to not being in-person since reporting is typically done by teachers or students who spot it at school. During the pandemic, those reports virtually stopped, even though we knew this was a continuing issue.”

After making these observations, the next step was to decide how to respond. “We have been looking at this issue of misusing prescription drugs for a while, but, with the pandemic, we needed to brainstorm new ways of reaching the youth. Prior to Covid, we had this great idea of showing commercials on the Jumbotron at football games, because we would have attendance upwards of 7,000 people. However, we needed to brainstorm new ways of reaching them virtually.”

Inspiration sparked after hearing a presentation at a CADCA event. “We met Generation RX out of Ohio State Pharmacy school through CADCA, where we were inspired by a fantastic campaign, they were running that essentially drove home, ‘You wouldn’t share your underwear, would you? You wouldn’t share your toothbrush. So why would you share your prescription drugs?’ We collaborated with them and ultimately created a cartoon video inspired by this that we decided to distribute through a geo-targeting campaign on Snapchat.”

“We had amazing results with this. We essentially ran a 15-second commercial through the app, which would have to play fully through and wasn’t skippable. There was a swipe up option where you could visit the landing page of our website, which then had another video and more information on prescription drug misuse.”

“Through our coalition partner, BG Ad Group, we were able to target Cherokee County youth ages 13-17. During a period of three weeks, our documented data verified that the commercial on Snapchat had 470,235 impressions, with 3,338 swipe-ups to our website landing page, and each of those swipe-ups showed that the average time spent on our website was 1.7 minutes. The data from the geo-targeting campaign also provided us with additional information, such as more females than males viewed the commercial; of the 470,235 views, 98% were high schoolers; along with other breakdowns of interest like, 97% of viewers were sports fans, 97% were considered film and TV fans; 90% were gamers, 83% were music fans and the percentage of views in many other categories. This information will allow us to target our future ads to the specific interests of our Snapchat users.”

To follow up this Snapchat campaign, the coalition collaborated with their local iHeart Radio station to hold a social media takeover, where the same video was shared by iHeart media company throughout the country. Additionally, billboards were strategically placed in well-trafficked areas in the county.

“The most positive aspect of the geotargeting campaign, is that it’s easier to find out if it’s effective or not. With billboards, you can identify the number of people who drive down those highways, but in a marketing campaign, we are able to tell how many people saw it, the demographics of the viewers and who followed up by visiting the site.”

Cherokee FOCUS/Drug Free Cherokee was the runner-up in this year’s Dose of Prevention challenge. Learn more about National Medicine Abuse Awareness month and how you can participate in the Dose of Prevention challenge next October.

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