The meanest PSA ever?

March 4, 2013

New York City is out with a new teen pregnancy prevention campaign and, like many of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's public health initiatives, its a tad controversial. It includes ads like this one, which will show up on subways and bus shelters citywide.

New York City has, at least under Mayor Bloomberg's tenure, served as a testing ground for aggressive public health campaigns, ranging from smoking bans in public places to, most recently, a ban on large sugary drinks.

Will this campaign work? Other cities have seen success with shock advertising on teen pregnancy. Kelly Baden points out that Milwaukee saw a big drop in its teen pregnancy rate after a wide-ranging prevention campaign that included some more unusual bus shelter advertisements (one, under the guise of offering free ring tones, actually connected callers with the sound of a baby crying and an anti-pregnancy message.)

At the same time, with ads like these, researchers tend to worry about the potential stigma they might bring to teen parents. This has been true with anti-obesity advertising, such as a recent campaign in Georgia that, much like these new ads, had researchers questioning whether the line had been crossed.

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Dylan Matthews · March 4, 2013