Campaign to combat binge drinking

The University won a $75,000 grant to implement a campus-wide campaign.

Brent Renneke

The University of Minnesota is one of four universities nationwide that won a grant to take part in a unique campaign combating the prevalence of binge drinking on college campuses. The University will receive a $75,000 grant from The Century Council, a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing drunk drivers and underage drinkers, for the implementation of a campus-wide campaign. The campaignâÄôs goal is to make students realize the social repercussions of binge drinking, as opposed to traditional campaigns that targeted alcohol poisoning or overall safety, said Nathan Gilkerson, a graduate student in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. âÄúWe are looking at the risks of binge drinking from a new and different perspective,âÄù Gilkerson said. Also, students will be delivering the message to their peers. The student voice is different from campaigns in the past, said Gilkerson, who is an adviser and will help coordinate the project. âÄúThere is some actual credibility with students talking to other students about binge drinking,âÄù Gilkerson said. Mass communications graduate student Michelle Gross, who helped form the campaign, agreed that student communication could prove to be more effective. âÄúWe are not talking down to them. We are talking with them,âÄù Gross said. After a summer of developing how it will be implemented, the campaign will start in the beginning of the fall semester. Once it begins, the campaign will reach students through media where students spend a large amount of their time, according to Gilkerson. Although flyers and other physical advertising will be placed around campus, Gilkerson said the majority will take place through Facebook and other social networking sites. Albert Tims, director of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, said the ability to launch the campaign is a well-earned opportunity. âÄúOur students came up with a brilliant campaign concept,âÄù Tims said. âÄúWe are very pleased that we are going to have the opportunity to actually launch it next fall.âÄù The campaign was initially created for the 2009 National Student Advertising Competition, which is the largest student advertising competition. The competition usually presents a case study of a real-life product or service and has the student groups identify potential problem areas and devise an integrated advertising campaign. However, the 2009 NSAC contacted The Century Council to create a case study about a social issue, different from the products or services used in the past, said Joy Hungate, Century Council vice president of programs. The topic of the case study made designing an advertising campaign much more difficult, Gross said. She said another struggle was the fact the students working on the project were the relevant targeted audience. âÄúA lot of self-reflection about our own behaviors was needed in treating this message,âÄù Gross said. The UniversityâÄôs campaign was one of four chosen by The Century Council in a collection of 150 submissions. Also picked were the the University of Alabama-Tuscaloosa, George Washington University and Ohio University. They were given the funds to implement their own campaign that they submitted to the NSAC. However, Hungate said the original plan did not guarantee any of the submissions would receive the funding. âÄúWhen we went into the competition, we went into it with an open mind,âÄù Hungate said. The Century Council did not know if the submissions would be comparable to the high-quality work that was normally focused on products and service in years past, Hungate said. âÄúWe knew the competition was a starting point for us, but we didnâÄôt know where we would go from here,âÄù she said.