Illinois Environmental Protection Agency

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency had two big problems. First, air pollution, primarily in the Chicago area, was increasing dramatically while most residents were either cynical or apathetic about finding a solution. Second, the IEPA had little money to get their message out in an expensive, major media market.

Siddall specifically had to raise awareness that air pollution was a problem in metropolitan Chicago. Educate the public on ways individuals contribute to the problem. Offer up easy, voluntary actions that improve air quality. And achieve a basic, but growing, level of participation in personal actions that would reduce air pollution.

Social marketing research among Chicago-area residents led us to an integrated public education campaign. High-impact, entertaining radio and TV were created to break through the clutter in such a competitive, sophisticated market. A color-coded air-quality forecasting program was developed and quickly adopted by local meteorologists. Plus, Siddall organized a coalition of some 200 businesses and organizations to extend campaign outreach with key messages in bill stuffers, employee and customer newsletters, trade publications and publicity events.

The campaign was remarkably successful. Awareness of the air pollution problem in Chicago increased from 38 percent to 81 percent in a single month. 67 percent of residents interviewed said they would take voluntary steps to reduce air pollution, especially when levels were “code red.” Most telling, in the year prior to the campaign, air pollution exceeded the air quality health standard by 20 days. Following the campaign, the health standard was exceeded just six times.

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