"Nonprofit paid Bristol Palin seven times what it spent on actual teen pregnancy prevention." This is the headline flying around the internet today. Unfortunately, it is entirely off-base. Bristol Palin has been a successful vehicle to raise awareness about teen pregnancy prevention.
The Candie's Foundation chose Bristol Palin to join the foundation's teen pregnancy prevention efforts because we knew she would generate tremendous attention for the issue. Her involvement has been more successful than we imagined. Bristol's work -- which has included two television PSAs, one viral video, multiple print PSAs, two town hall meetings, and six television interviews -- has resulted in more than ONE BILLION media impressions. This is an unprecedented reach for a teen pregnancy prevention campaign.
The Candie's Foundation is not a grant-making foundation. Like many other foundations, we develop and implement our own programs. The goal of the Candie's Foundation is to get people talking about teen pregnancy. We do this by producing and funding celebrity-driven public service announcements and campaigns.
The cost of Bristol's involvement has been a fraction of what other social marketing campaigns cost, some of which spend tens of millions of taxpayers' money each year. The Candie's Foundation is entirely funded by private donations and has never received taxpayer money.
No other organization is positioned to do what we do. I started this organization at a time when no other companies would take on teen pregnancy because it is considered controversial. There are still almost none who will. While other organizations work at the community or school level, we complement their efforts by raising awareness through national media and pop culture. We fill a major gap that others cannot.
In short, it was worth every penny to involve Bristol Palin in our efforts to generate a national dialogue on teen pregnancy. It had nothing to do with ideology or politics, abstinence or safe sex. (For the record, the Candie's Foundation supports both.) It had everything to do with wanting to keep this issue in the national consciousness, something the Candie's Foundation was doing long before Bristol became a household name and will continue to do for years to come.
Neil Cole is the founder of The Candie's Foundation.
P.S.: Research backs up efficacy of Bristol Palin's efforts. In January 2011, the Candie's Foundation commissioned YPulse, a youth media research firm, to conduct a survey with 1,000 14-19 year-olds throughout the United States to compare effects and resonance of celebrity-driven teen pregnancy prevention PSAs with non-celebrity PSAs. Teens viewed four different video PSAs. The two Candie's Foundation PSAs featured Bristol Palin and Jenny McCarthy. The two comparison PSAs were produced by a national teen pregnancy prevention organization and featured non-famous teens. All four PSAs have received comparable national media air time. A table outlines some of the key findings. To view the research, visit www.candiesfoundation.org.