Anti-vaping campaign on social media involved geolocation of beach bars, hotels and more

Local restrictions on vaping and smoking in some areas became official in February. Ad campaigns involving geofencing and keyword targeting hammered the message in the months that followed. (Port City Daily / Johanna F. Still)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY – The local government offensive against vaping has spread in the months since New Hanover County leaders approved a ban on vaping and smoking in county-owned areas and in some other areas. public spaces.

A multi-faceted advertising campaign designed to curb e-cig use – an alternative to cigarettes hated by health officials because of its startling popularity among minors – is one of the cornerstones of the campaign. approaching the county. The county passed restrictions last November that went into effect in February.

Read more: New Hanover to vote on e-cig, ban on smoking in private bars, restaurants and more

A social media campaign that began in February 2021 uses geofencing, which means ads are sent to the mobile devices of people who physically cross a virtual border – in this case, places like shopping malls and parks. county.

New Hanover County paid for the anti-vaping ads with a grant from a North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services program called “Healthy Communities.” Money from the program goes to local health departments, with the goal of reducing “the burden of chronic disease and injury in North Carolina,” which includes tobacco and electronic cigarette use. Nicotine addiction often appears in adolescence, according to the CDC, and a 2016 Surgeon General report claimed that e-cig aerosols emitted “may contain additional toxins, making it less safe than air. pure”.

Of the total 83 health services that received the grant last year, 38 used funds to respond to media messaging campaigns designed to tackle smoking and vaping, according to the most recent data available from NCDHHS .

The New Hanover Board of Health and Human Services advocated for even tougher restrictions from October 2019. The then director of health, Phillip Tarte, was one of the driving forces behind the policy. . He was fired at the end of January; in its termination letter, Tarte was accused of devoting itself solely to the smoking and vaping ordinance even as the new coronavirus began to emerge on the east coast last year.

County supplier Adbridge Consulting billed $ 3,000 for the first three months of the campaign. An additional $ 3,000 extension was signed to cover more listings in April and May, specifically aimed at travelers in the Wilmington area.

Sponsored posts like this have appeared on the mobile devices of individuals who enter a “geofence”. Businesses can use digital location data to target content specifically to people who enter these areas. (Port City Daily / Courtesy of New Hanover County)

Internet users who Google vacation rentals, boat rentals, or similar services in the county have been targeted by sponsored New Hanover County public health posts, carrying the message that the new rule “no longer allows smoking. and vaping in public places like restaurants, bars and entertainment. locations, and in county, town, and city buildings, land, and vehicles. ”

The original geofinders covered places like The Pointe Cinema, Los Portales Supermarket, Fort Fisher NC Aquarium, Independence Mall, and downtown Mayfaire.

Starting in April, dozens of other locations were added, including popular beach bars, a range of hotels, public restrooms at Kure Beach, and over 10 beach accesses on Wrightsville Beach.

Also with grant money from NCDHHS, the county hired Cumulus Media to target ads linking to rethinkvape.org, an anti-vaping organization, to streams of individuals browsing content that includes specific keywords like “Vape,” “Juul,” “ecig” and “vape juice,” according to a county spokesperson.

Adbridge has also used keyword research in its anti-vaping ads. According to a county spokesperson, as of April 30, the Adbridge campaign had generated 79,353 views via social media, 36,431 views via keyword retargeting and 185,438 views via geofencing.

According to emails obtained as part of a public registration request, personal data is not collected as part of these advertising operations.

The Cumulus campaign originally ran from September 11, 2019 until May 31, 2020, before vaping restrictions were imposed. It garnered 397,082 views, according to a county spokesperson. It was relaunched last August and carried through to the end of May for the price of $ 500 per month. During that time, the ads received 275,895 views.

This map shows the locations where geographic barriers were installed after the smoking and vaping restrictions took effect. In April, the list was expanded to include tourist destinations, hotels and more. (Port City Daily / Courtesy of New Hanover County)

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