Two of series of posters that have been turning heads recently in Toronto.

Ad campaign turning heads one belly at a time

While roaming around Toronto these days you might have seen some interesting poster ads.

Ads displaying words such as ‘love’, ‘joy’, ‘mom’ and ‘hope’, have been turning heads because the letter ‘O’ is actually the bare belly of a pregnant woman.

FASworld Toronto is the organization behind the campaign to raise awareness about fetal alcohol syndrome.

“Fetal alcohol syndrome is now called fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and these are learning and behaviour problems caused to the fetus when a mother drinks in pregnancy,” Bonnie Buxton, co-founder of FASworld Toronto said.

“It means that part of the baby’s brain has been damaged by prenatal alcohol and unfortunately this is unfixable.”

Buxton and her husband, Bryan Philcox, are the founders of FASworld Toronto. They came up with the idea for the organization in 1999, after their adopted daughter was diagnosed with ARND (Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder).

“My husband and I had an adopted daughter who had all kinds of learning and behaviour problems,” Buxton said. “And she wound up on the street at age 16 or so, homeless and addicted to crack. I saw something on television and I realized that she was struggling with what at that point was the fetal alcohol syndrome.”

This new campaign hopes to provide positive motivation for women to not drink during pregnancy, for the sake of their babies.

“There’s no safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy and no safe time, so what we are trying to do is have a campaign that instead of having a whole lot of warning, we’re just trying to talk about the good thing to do rather than the bad things,” Buxton said. “The good thing to do for your baby is to not drink.”

Terry Shatner, an independent marketing and business development consultant, knows the psychology behind the ad campaign.

“[People] are exposed to thousands of impressions a day, to the point you’re not even aware of all the messages that come at you,” she said.

“So usually when you’re looking to develop an advertising strategy first of all you have to figure out who is your target audience, what are you trying to communicate, who are you talking to, what does the consumer think now.

“They may have no opinion, they may have apathy and they really don’t care or they may be very motivated about the topic you are talking about.”

FASworld Toronto’s ad campaign addresses the issue of the fetal alcohol syndrome in a positive way and with no aggressiveness.

“There’s nothing offensive in those ads,” Shatner said. “I think in this case, if it’s offending people than the organization would probably say “we’ve done our job because we’ve stimulated conversation about a topic that most people don’t talk about.”

The message that the campaign is trying to communicate is simple: if you’re pregnant don’t drink.

“That’s the message that we’re trying to get out and we’re trying to do it in a way that’s not going to be threatening,” said Buxton, adding “in a way that’s going to feel good and enjoyable to avoid alcohol during pregnancy.”

Alia Abaya, the model for the ‘love’ poster, said in a quote given by Buxton, “I wanted to do the campaign because I value the education of women to make healthy choices, and I loved the concept of being positive, and happy, and celebratory.”