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Racing Against Time: The CDC's Campaign to Prevent Zika Transmission


  • Zika hit the U.S., and CDC had to respond immediately
  • Abt designed a behavioral marketing campaign in record time
  • We reached 37 million people through all media platforms
The Challenge

The pictures from Brazil showed babies born with small heads or distended limbs. They were victims of Zika, the first mosquito-transmitted virus to cause devastating birth defects. Brazil and Puerto Rico reported growing numbers of Zika-related cases in early 2016 and, by July, officials had verified the first Zika cases in the U.S.. Thus began an extraordinary, lightning-speed, Abt-led communications campaign for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The Approach

Communications campaigns usually need months-long formative research. Abt lacked that luxury.  We had to move quickly to create and implement an awareness campaign to contain the unprecedented threat. Abt conducted focus groups and developed and tested key prevention messages in English and Spanish for women of childbearing age who were pregnant--or thinking of becoming pregnant--and their partners.  The full-scale media campaign included prevention messages on everything from social media to mall posters.

Number of people reached with a multi-media campaign that Abt rapidly created, tested, and rolled out to help stem the spread of the Zika virus
37 million
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The Results

The team took only three days to test and deploy a comprehensive behavioral marketing campaign in English and Spanish. It reached more than 26 million people in the U.S. and 11 million people in Puerto Rico through all media platforms. A team of subject matter, communications, design, and media experts was on-hand 24/7 to respond quickly to outbreaks and potential crisis situations.