Jay Winsten and the Designated Driver Campaign

Abstract:

Center for Health Communication at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Director Jay Winsten spearheaded a national mass media campaign, the Harvard Alcohol Project, also known as the Designated Driver Campaign, to rapidly diffuse the "designated driver" into the American lexicon and culture. The campaign broke new ground in the process, most notably by harnessing on an unprecedented scale the Hollywood entertainment community's power to disseminate messages and facilitate social learning. Writers incorporated the campaign's designated driver message into the scripts of more than 160 prime-time television episodes during four television seasons. The campaign persuaded large numbers of Americans to adopt the practice of choosing a designated driver-i.e., a member of a social group who agrees to stay sober in order to safely drive others in the group who have been drinking alcohol. The campaign provided a model for a generation of advocates seeking to mobilize the power of Hollywood to advance social causes, and convinced funding organizations that media advocacy campaigns were worth supporting.

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