Centers for Disease Control

Public Health Risk × Strategic Design = Burning Truth

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has a broad mission: to protect America from health, safety and security threats, both foreign and domestic. The tools it employs to execute against that mission range from research and evaluation to public education. Given the size and scope of the agency and the myriad challenges inherent in managing the distribution of information via social media (in the past it has taken up to a year to simply prepare a campaign for launch), they challenged us to create and demonstrate a social media ‘playbook’ to help their health communication professionals develop, launch and monitor campaigns quickly and effectively.

Burning Issue

Working closely with the CDC’s Skin Cancer team, we used that ‘playbook’ to design, implement and measure a campaign targeted on one of the most prevalent and preventable causes of that particular disease: tanning.


Articulation and Execution

Intended to address common perceptions and ‘facts’ about indoor tanning, tanning beds and tanning in general, we named and visually articulated a broad campaign—The Burning Truth. Based on social listening analysis that revealed consistent spikes in conversations relating to “indoor tanning” and “tanning beds,” the campaign ran from late March to the end of April 2014. Centered around dispelling the myth of ‘safe tanning’ and launched into the perfect storm driven by spring break, prom season and the lead-up to summer, the campaign was designed to connect with a target audience defined by persona development. Consisting of a range of deliverables including shareable images, landing pages, downloadable posters and ongoing reports, The Burning Truth was rolled out within 60 days across a range of social media channels including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.

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Measured against key performance indicators over a four week time frame, the campaign hit home:

51% increase in followers
1.4 million accounts reached
5.5 million impressions
14.5 retweets per tweet

1,400% increase in engaged users
500% increase in reach

145% increase in likes

92% increase in repins

CDC Skin Cancer website
31% increase in traffic
504 poster PDF downloads


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Centers for Disease Control

This visualization illustrates the full extent of our engagement with this particular client, broken down by the percentage of specific capabilities we provided during the relationship.

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  • General
  • Individual
  1. I Understanding / strategy
    1. A Research
    2. B Data visualization
    3. C Brand strategy
  2. II Conceptualization / articulation
    1. D Naming / nomenclature
    2. E Positioning / message development
    3. F Copywriting / content development
  3. III Communication design / execution
    1. G Corporate identity
    2. H Video / motion graphics
    3. I Web design / development
    4. J Physical spaces
    5. K Collateral / publications
    6. L Events / experiences
    7. M Digital media / marketing
    8. N Social media
    9. O Packaging
  4. IV Measurement / consulting
    1. P Search engine marketing
    2. Q Creative consultation
    3. R Innovation workshops