ARALE: National TV Advertising Campaign

In Ireland, the National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) created a national TV Advertising Campaign. The campaign started in 2008 and still continues in 2013. It started with the following observation: Taking the first steps on any difficult journey requires courage and commitment – and for those who have difficulties reading or writing, the stigma attached can prove daunting and discouraging. It is on this basis that, in 2007, NALA´s sponsor, An Post – the national postal service – researched, developed and funded an advertising campaign to encourage those with literacy and numeracy difficulties to take those difficult first steps – by contacting the National Adult Literacy Agency´s freephone support line.

An Post, the Irish national postal service, sponsored the advertising campaign on national TV and Radio.

The first TV and cinema advertisements portrayed three individuals (a train driver, a mother and a hairdresser) who had already addressed their literacy difficulty and wanted to encourage others to take the first step and reap the rewards by contacting NALA. The ads focus on the benefits of returning to further education, as well as demonstrating that this issue is not confined to any particular demographic segment. An Post later developed a series of radio advertisements, “Words and Numbers”, to accompany the campaign.

Since the advertisements were first broadcast in September 2007, NALA has recorded over 13,000 calls to its freephone support line. The calls are mainly from adults who have seen the advertisements and want to find out how they can improve their reading, writing or numeracy skills. NALA has also received calls from friends and family members who are ringing on behalf of an adult who has literacy difficulties – and from people who want to volunteer as literacy tutors. In 2011, An Post developed three new TV advertisements based on research from the 2007-2010 campaign, which continue to encourage people to ring the NALA freephone support line. A complementary, information website, has been inundated with hits during the course of the campaign. The campaign succeeded in encouraging adults with literacy difficulties to return to education.

More background information

Six years ago, NALA approached An Post to ask whether they would be interested in supporting a campaign on literacy education for adults. It was good timing: An Post was currently searching for new sponsorship opportunities that would be a good match for their brand. Literacy made sense for their corporate social responsibility, as they are a national post service; for example, their employees have to read letters to be able to deliver the mail. They also knew that the campaign would have a national reach. It was beneficial for their brand as well.

NALA and An Post discussed what activity they could do together and which kind of message should be included. They studied other campaigns, for instance one in the UK that focused on the fears of the learner – on the fact that the man in the commercial was running from his illiteracy and trying to hide it ifrom others. But NALA and An Post decided to show a different message – to show the benefits that learners get from returning to education. The aim was to encourage people to take the first step back towards education. The word “literacy” was not even used, as tests suggested it isn’t beneficial.

The campaigns lasted three years. It ran in January, which is the month for New Year´s good resolutions, and September, when a feeling of “back to school” is spread around the country. Free phone lines were used to reassure the learners and to let them know that the experience would be different than in school.

After the campaign there was a change in the country´s economy and new research was done to identify different messages for the campaign. Three brand new ads were produced and are running now. They are based on real life experiences. NALA and adult literacy learners were consulted.