Varuh človekovih pravic

A strategy on promoting children's rights

The Human Rights Ombudsman of the Republic of Slovenia does not only deal with specific complaints, but also handles the promotion and education of human rights. This is evident primarily in the area of children’s rights, which owing to their specific nature, require different treatment and methods of solving. Last year a special department for children’s rights was established at the ombudsman’s office, and this also focuses on education and promotion of children’s rights and on raising awareness among the general public about the most salient problems, such as domestic violence, the rights of children to both parents, the rights of children to live in a pleasant environment and similar.

Since this kind of direction requires an interdisciplinary approach and the cooperation of various professional circles, I will here primarily focus on one segment, that is promotion, for which it is still necessary to be accompanied by other programme activities, such as cooperation with schools, state bodies, professional circles and non-profit organisations, otherwise it does not go a long way in achieving the desired effect.

This year the Human Rights Ombudsman has cooperated extensively with schools, and has actively included children, adolescents, teachers and parents in education about children’s rights. With the help of non-governmental organisations, the Office formulated a project for the education and promotion of children’s rights. On a systemic level, it provided the initiative for the drafting of a special law that would deal with domestic violence, and to this end, the ombudsman called several meetings with various ministers, as well as an expert consultation, to address the problem in an interdisciplinary way. The ombudsman already functions in relation to schools, non-governmental organisations, the government and professional circles, so it was necessary to enact an appropriate kind of promotion aimed at raising awareness among the general public. We focused on the three most frequent causes of violation of children’s rights (domestic violence, contact by separated parents with children and the relationship of parents to children), which are presented in an advertising campaign.

Social marketing

In trying to raise the awareness of the general public about various social problems, we have been assisted greatly by social marketing. “Social marketing is the application of commercial marketing technologies to the analysis, planning, execution, and evaluation of programmes designed to influence the voluntary behaviour of target audiences in order to improve their personal welfare and that of their society.” (Andreasen, 1995 p.7). In contrast to commercial marketing, which directs the majority of its attention towards the selling of products or services, which it does primarily for the needs of the organisation and to increase profit, social marketing is aimed at improving the quality of life of individuals and society in general. In this way, social marketing embodies responsibility for the wishes and needs of the individual, on one hand, and the long-term needs of society on the other. This is a concept that extends and modernises the marketing concept of orientation to the user, and adds to it, the new dimensions of an activity that is orientated towards surpassing dissent between what is of the individual and what is of society (Trnavčevič, Zupanc-Grom, 2000 p.23).

Social advertising

Another segment of social marketing is promotion, or what is termed as social advertising. Social advertising is advertising that promotes social behaviour, products and ideas, such as volunteering, a better attitude towards marginalised groups, and the changed attitude of society towards various issues, such as the violation of children’s rights. The ultimate objective of social advertising is to change behaviour and this behaviour is changed slowly and step by step (see Kotler, Andreasen, 1991 p. 547).

Target audience essential for formulating strategy

Through this concept we focus on the individual; we are aware that changes only come about if individuals themselves realise that this is in their interest. Social marketing therefore always formulates its strategy on the basis of understanding the needs, wishes, values and understanding of the target audience. Respecting the importance of the individual is central to social marketing. For this reason, it is essential to have a good knowledge of the target audience, which can be acquired by means of dealing with specific cases, secondary research and cooperation with various experts and professionals in the field.

Since the majority of violations of children’s rights are caused by adults, often the parents of children, our target group is precisely these people. Usually they are not even aware, we could say, that they are at the stage of pre-contemplation. Individuals that are at this stage have no idea that the problem exists, or that they represent a risk group, so they also have no intention of changing their habits or behaviour. So individuals at this stage need to be taught about the problem and be made aware by being offered basic knowledge and information. Aside from instructing and informing, another feature of this stage is changing the views or values of the individual, since the individual must believe that the proposed behaviour is acceptable. When the individual attains an awareness of the problem, he/she enters into the stage of contemplation.

In the contemplation stage , participants already recognise the problem, they are aware of the consequences and have already started thinking about action. But for this reason there is a need to change their attitude and orientation towards the problem. This can be done most easily by showing them the advantages of a specific behaviour and reducing the drawbacks, or rather, the price they will have to “pay” for the changed behaviour. In this way we create the motivation for the behaviour offered (Andreasen, 1995 p.148). And our aim by means of this campaign is to shift the target audience from the stage of precontemplation to the stage of contemplation, and indirectly also shift those who are in the contemplation stage to take action.

Marketing mix

On the basis of a good knowledge of the target audience, for an effective strategy we need, above all, to determine elements of what is called the marketing mix. The marketing mix contains four indispensable elements that are essential for success, these being: product, price, place and promotion (see Andreasen, 1995 p.15). The product of social marketing can be an idea, social practices or an actual object, but the ultimate goal is always a change in behaviour. In our example the product is first and foremost an idea, that means that we are changing the values of individuals. Values are special forms of belief that are permanent and hardest to change. People must first be aware that the problem actually exists, so people need to be made aware of the problem before a new behaviour is even suggested. And to this end there is a need to identify the attributes and advantages that a specific product represents to our target audience.

The price is tied to what the target audience has to give up when it adopts the proposed behaviour. In social marketing, the price is therefore rarely monetary, and will more often involve assumptions such as time, effort and old habits. The marketing mix must be put together in such a way that it reduces the drawbacks as much as possible, and highlights the advantages as much as possible. It is therefore very important that in promotion we are not too negative, but rather that we show the positive side of the offered change in behaviour. The advertisement shown presents the ideal relationship between the parents, such as it should be, and for the attainment of which it would be worth changing one’s behaviour and way of life; in this case by leaving a violent person and encouraging the known victim to take this step and so forth. The advantages must therefore be linked to the deeper values of the target audience. The offered behaviour needs to be associated with basic life goals. This can be security, self-respect, good family relations and similar. It is equally important for us not to make the advertisement too aggressive, since in this way we will not reach those that are at the stage of pre-contemplation and are still not even aware of the problem. An aggressive, violent ad would automatically put them off, triggering the thought of: “that doesn’t happen to me”, since it is often difficult to admit the truth to oneself.

The place is in general attached to the distribution channels; to where and how the target audience get to the product. It relates to where it would be most appropriate to present the target audience with the programme messages. The messages must reach people in those places where they are most likely to reflect on the decisions that are a part of the proposed behaviour. In other words, the most appropriate place is the living room at home, where the whole family is gathered, and in this way the most appropriate distribution channel is television. Aside from television, we will also reach our target audience via the printed media. We will also publish the first issue of the ombudsman’s newsletter intended for people with less access to information, with the back page reserved for social advertising, carrying a printed advertisement from this campaign. Distribution must proceed in various media at the same time.

The campaign mapped out in this way will begin on 10 December 2003, on Human Rights Day. At the same time of course, it is extremely important for there to be intensive activity in the area of public relations, and a presentation of the strategy at the regular monthly press conference. There will also be constant promotion of the entire campaign on our web site; to the effect that we are making it possible for posters to be printed, the television advertisement to be downloaded, and we are also offering textual material, information on the problem and so forth.

The fourth and final element of the marketing mix is promotion, which addresses the issue of how to transfer the message to the selected target audience. In addition to the elements that are already presented above, for a high-quality promotion we also need to look at the dimension of form and recognisability of the campaign, and its originality. Every good campaign must also be distinguished by an instantly recognisable feature or feeling from the individual advertisement. The majority of campaigns are therefore put together by means of a combination of several unchanging elements.

Of course each one of the three issues presented in the advertisements of the campaign require their own treatment and have their own characteristics, but there is one thing common to them all: in each one, the innocent victim is a child. The child is the central point around which we build the story, through which we show the indirect suffering of a person who is not and cannot be blamed or made responsible for this process, but who bears the greatest consequences. Apart from focusing on the child, account should be taken of the visual similarity. We can obtain a continuously recognisable form of the campaign by selecting a specific type of person to appear in the advertisement, or we achieve this through visualisation, which in our case takes the form of animation. In our example, the type of person appearing in the advertisement is the typical “Smith” family, which will appear in all the advertisements and in all the media. Alongside with visual similarity, linguistic similarity is also important, where it involves the formation of a group of words, the formation of a slogan that gives the advertisement sense, and it contains a similarity that can be linked to the product that is being offered. In our case the slogan will be “A child has the right…” (Otrok ima pravico...). Equally, we should not forget the similarity in approach, where the personality of the organisation is expressed, and this does not involve simply a distinguishing element that we would use in specific types of campaign. In our campaign we will try to present the greatest possible openness and accessibility of the organisation (the Human Rights Ombudsman). In this way the organisation also displays a human attitude, since it is turning away from bureaucratic rigidity and towards people, offering them help (Roman, Maas, 1995 pp. 96 – 99).

The strategy for the advertising campaign was formulated entirely at the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman. In addition to the strategy we also created the screenplays for individual advertisements and the proposals and designs for the printed media campaign. A good campaign can only be generated through a good knowledge of the target audience, something that is made possible for us by our familiarity with the specific cases that we are resolving. And precisely here, is the advantage of an institution that functions on the specific as well as the general level, since the familiarity with specific cases allows for a better understanding of the target audience and, in this way ensures a much more effective promotion and education of the key question raised here – the promotion of the rights of the child.


1. Andreasen, A.L. (1995). Marketing social change. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
2. Kotler, P., Andreasen, A.R. (1991). Strategic marketing for nonprofit organizations. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc.
3. Roman, K., Maas, J. (1995). Kako oglaševati (How to advertise). Radovljica: Zbirka Virgo Advertising.
4. Trnavčevič, A., Zupanc-Grom, R. (2000). Marketing v izobraževanju (Marketing in education). Ljubljana: Šola za ravnatelje.

Prepared by: Barbara Samaluk, Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman