The First North American Social Marketing Conference

4th November 2019

The 1st North American Social Marketing Conference was held last month in Ottawa, Canada. The event brought together over 150 social marketers from across North America (and 9 other nations around the world!) to showcase the latest and greatest in social marketing in North America. As the first in the World Social Marketing family of events to be held in North America, this was an excellent opportunity to dig deeper into issues that affect North Americans, and also to improve the professional networks. Bringing together academics and practitioners of social marketing in North America was an important goal for the Social Marketing Association of North America as they continue to strengthen and build the social marketing community in North America

Something for everyone

There were 41 presentations packed into this one-day event, with 36 peer-reviewed presentations from the social marketing community. The content was quite diverse in both topic and geography, with presentations on programmes from across North America; including The Global Smart Drinking Goals from Zacetecas, Mexico, and Serving Underserved Populations: A Northern Experience, a panel discussing projects from across northern Canada. There where sessions for people who are new to social marketing; such as the panel chaired by Jay Kassirer discussing the similarities and differences between social marketing, design thinking and behavioural economics. There were sessions for experienced social marketing professionals; such as the interactive session led by Sharyn Rundle-Thiele from Griffith University, Advancing social marketing: Putting theory into practice.

Climate change at the table 

As the climate crisis develops urgency around the world, the presentations in Ottawa demonstrated ways that social marketers are working to help build the social movement. In her keynote presentation, Jennifer Lynes discussed what needs to be done right, to take action on climate change. She outlined 6 things that need to be considered, including ‘design cool things that happen to be good for the environment’, which is good advice to change behaviour regardless of whether we change opinions and attitudes.

In addition to the keynote presentation, there were a number of presentations looking at different environmental issues, such as sustainable tourism, rain gardens, diets and forestry management. With a broader look at climate change, Pénélope Daignault presented the Unpointcinq program, an innovative web media for better communicating about climate change and pro-environmental actions. There was also a special panel session that discussed ‘Shifting Travel Behaviour’, with panellists that discussed how we can transition to more sustainable and healthy travel including Elyse McCann discussing Ottawa’s ‘Bike to Work Month’ campaign.


Vaping and cannabis and opioids, oh my!  

The legalisation of marijuana, access to opioids and marketing of vaping products are newer issues that public health professionals are dealing with. In addition to the keynotes by Jeffrey Jordan of Rescue and Sandra Donatucci and Daniel Morier of Health Canada there were 9 other presentations that focused on research or case studies in one of these areas. The geographic focus of this conference allowed space to focus on issues that are particularly prevalent in North America, and learn from each other to help curb related behaviours and encourage healthy and safe decisions. There were a number of presentations that focused on these issues, highlighting that as new threats, they are things public health professionals are certainly struggling with.

Looking back …. 

Earlier this year, NASMC committee member Jim Mintz passed away. A pioneer and strong proponent for social marketing, Jim was the Director of Marketing and Corporate Communications at Health Canada, and most recently co-founded and was Managing Partner of the Centre of Excellence for Public Sector Marketing.

In honour of Jim, SMANA founded a scholarship program for students and young professionals in the field of social marketing to support their attendance at the Conference. This year, 4 recipients were honoured at the North American Social Marketing Conference.

….and looking forward

World Social Marketing and the Social Marketing Association of North America would like to thank the sponsors, committee, presenters and attendees who all helped to make the first North American Social Marketing Conference a success! We are all looking forward to the next one. If you are interested in bringing the North American Social Marketing Conference to your city, or supporting the event in another way please contact us. We are always looking for future opportunities.

Alison Carlyle
4th November 2019


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