EMA and BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York Win National PRWeek Award

BUFFALO, N.Y. Eric Mower + Associates and BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York took home the PRWeek award for Community Relations Campaign of the Year for the community-wide, multi-media awareness campaign Painkillers Kill. The award was presented at a ceremony last night in New York City.

“Painkillers Kill is a campaign that is truly making a difference for an under-the-radar issue,” said Tom Merrick, senior partner and executive creative director, Eric Mower + Associates. “We’re proud to be part of BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York’s crusade against the prescription painkiller addiction and abuse epidemic. This award is a fitting recognition for an important community effort, as well as a proper tribute to the children and families who were so tragically affected by this issue.”

Painkillers Kill was created after BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York members Avi and Julie Israel shared the story of their son, Michael, who died as a result of an addiction to opiates, which were prescribed to help manage symptoms of Crohn’s disease. The insurer launched an initiative to educate the public and engaged EMA to develop a multi-media and social campaign in the Western New York region.

“This award is shared by our 50 community partners who made this campaign possible,” said Gretchen Fierle, Senior Vice President, Marketing and Communications, BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York. “In less than six months, these organizations stepped up and leaned in to support this campaign with a goal of educating every household in Western New York about painkiller abuse. This national recognition is a reflection of the tremendous ground we’ve gained in fighting this devastating epidemic.”

Considered among the industry’s highest accolades, the annual PRWeek Awards recognize excellence in campaigns, techniques, personalities and business, and are given to the best corporate, nonprofit, agency, government, and education teams. Finalists in the community relations category included Coyne PR/National Canine Research Council, Union Bank and the Los Angeles Unified School District, Samsung, and Weber Shandwick/DC Health Link.

EMA partnered with WNED-Western New York Public Broadcasting to create a documentary that aired across all network affiliates, in addition to being viewed by more than 100,000 students supported by curriculum designed for the Painkillers Kill initiative. Mammoth media power was put behind the campaign through the commitment of virtually every media outlet in the region, and a website provided a 24/7 hotline and other educational and community resources.

The campaign—which garnered more than $3 million of earned media with more 50 million regional impressions—has been so successful that it is being shared with the 37 other BlueCross BlueShield plans, which insure one in three Americans.

The 54 companies, organizations and schools partnering in this effort include Block Club; Bee Publications; BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York; The Buffalo News; Buffalo & Erie County Public Library; Buffalo Spree Magazine; Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo; Cumulus Media, (FM 96.9, 103.3, 104.1, AM 1270); Daily Post; Entercom Radio, (FM 98.5, 102.5, 107.7, AM 930, 550, 1440, 1520); Eric Mower + Associates; Erie County Council for the Prevention of Alcohol and Substance Abuse; WNY Family Magazine; Field 2 Design; Robert J. and Martha B. Fierle Foundation, Health Integrated; HealthNow Healthy Living Fund; Horizon Health Services; John R. Oishei Foundation; also, Lamar Advertising; Manzella Marketing;  Save the Michaels of the World; Buffalo State, Canisius and 20 other institutions of higher learning in Western New York; Tops Markets; Townsquare Media, (JACK FM 92.9, WBLK 93.7, JOYFM 96.1, WYRK 106.5); TwentyFirst Century Press; Walgreens; Wegmans; WNED-TV,  Buffalo-Toronto; WBBZ-TV; WGRZ-TV; WKBW-TV; WIVB-TV; WUTV-Fox;  and the Zenger Group.

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