Earlier this year, our agency (KBS) came together with longstanding clients Ad Council, AdoptUSKids and the Department of Health & Human Services to create a new campaign encouraging adoption of teens from foster care. We, at KBS, have been working on AdoptUSKids’ adoption campaign for over a decade. Throughout this time, we have always focused on the notion that “you don’t have to be perfect to be a perfect parent.” But this year, during our creative process, we landed on a new insight we wanted to explore in greater detail. When parents are expecting a baby, they have tons of resources available to them. But what about parents looking to adopt a child? Shouldn’t they have access to similar resources? Especially those who are looking to adopt a teenager.
One parenting guidebook in particular instantly stuck in our minds – What To Expect When You’re Expecting. It’s often referred to as “America’s Pregnancy Bible” and was recently named New York Times’ longest running bestseller ever.
So we decided to come up with our own twist on this universally known piece of pop culture, by creating “What To Expect When You’re Expecting… A Teenager.”
We were able to secure the rights and permission from Heidi Murkoff, the author of What To Expect When You’re Expecting. She and her husband were so generous to let us use their likeness, as it was for a good cause that they had tremendous support for. Heidi, who does not normally do partnerships that utilize the brand she has worked so hard to build, made an exception for us given the nature of our work.
Wanting to stay as true to her brand’s likeness as possible, we took it a step further and were even able to work with the book’s original illustrator for some of our print and OOH work – ensuring a cohesive campaign that stayed true to the original. Together with the book’s team, we created a 360 campaign based on the book’s likeness. The campaign includes TV, out-of-home, print, social and digital.
The TV spots portray well-intentioned mommy bloggers (and dads) trying to give advice to prospective parents on raising a teen.
Print, digital and out-of-home feature a parody book cover and illustrations that mimic the diagrams within the original What To Expect® Book. The book’s original illustrator, Karen Kuchar, created the sketches for our print and out-of-home ads. But instead of showing anatomical diagrams and pregnancy stretches, these illustrations show common scenarios adoptive parents can expect when adopting a teen (i.e.: confusing text messages, binge-watching and promposals.)
All of these pieces end with the same idea: There truly is no all-in-one guidebook to adopting a teen. None of us know what to expect, whether we’re adopting or having a newborn.
Working with the What To Expect author and illustrator taught us a lot. We learned how to adapt the new What To Expect tone but also keep it within AdoptUSKids’ voice. Using a humorous tone yet also being informative was at times challenging. We had to find that right balance of being comedic yet also emotional, inspiring prospective parents to adopt. We found the right balance by concluding with a heartfelt moment and sentiment— you don’t have to know it all to be a perfect parent.
In the end, we learned one major key takeaway from working on this campaign—persistence is key. In the beginning, we tried to contact the lawyers who told us ‘absolutely no,’ we couldn’t use their likeness. But after several follow-up emails and finding the right people, we got through to Heidi Murkoff and they told us ‘yes!’ If you have an idea but think ‘no, they’d never let us use their copyright,’ it never hurts to ask first. Because you truly never know what to expect.