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Don’t Drown This Out

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Drowning Prevention: Don't Drown This Out.

What’s going on?
The National Drowning Prevention Alliance's powerful PSA reminds us to stay vigilant near the water, because drowning doesn't look like it does on TV.

In its national campaign by Doner, “Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning,” the NDPA aims to educate parents and caregivers about child drowning prevention by debunking the many myths around how and when drownings occur. Unlike the Hollywood portrayals of drowning:

  • A drowning person won’t wave their arms because their arms instinctively push down to try to stay above water.

  • A drowning person is unable to make any sound because their energy is being spent trying to breathe and stay afloat.

When drowning occurs, it actually happens quickly, quietly, and often (88% of the time to be exact) when an adult is present – all points starkly illustrated in the NDPA’s chilling PSA:

According to the American Red Cross, 87% of drowning fatalities in children under five happen in home pools or hot tubs owned by family, friends or relatives. Adam Katchmarchi, Ph.D. and executive director of the NDPA says that “There is a common saying among water safety advocates that when everyone is watching, no one is watching.” That’s why the NDPA’s 5 Layers of Protection includes an active Water Watcher: an adult who can provide close, constant (sans cell phone or conversational distractions), and capable (i.e., sober) supervision. They recommend rotating Water Watchers every 15 minutes, even if lifeguards are present.

What's The Squeeze?
Though we may have been duped by the big screens, we can take what we’ve learned into the waters this weekend and the workplace thereafter.

While “Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning” is likely to strike a resounding chord with anyone who sees it, the campaign is especially thought-provoking and impactful from a marketing and communications standpoint. Here’s why:

  1. Though the NDPA’s campaign was admittedly made possible by a generous donation from its agency, Doner, healthcare organizations have launched similar initiatives in their own communities. After a record number of child drowning injuries were admitted to their hospital, Cook Children’s Health Care System created Lifeguard Your Child, with PSA videos featuring simulations of the most common drowning scenarios they see. Their ability to turn their patient data into impactful action is admirable. Might lack of understanding be contributing to other healthcare situations, prompting the need for similar communications efforts to address those concerns as well?

  2. Both campaigns aim to shatter typical misconceptions in a very illustrative, subtle way, showing how easily the real signs of child drownings can go unnoticed even when adults are in the vicinity. While dispelling fallacies won’t always be applicable to our communications, we should still ask ourselves if we are inadvertently perpetuating myths and stereotypes through the portrayals within them.

  3. The PSAs’ “show, don’t tell” approach serves as a reminder that actions can often convey more than words alone, demonstrating that even simple and understated communications can carry substantial impact. The NDPA wisely reserved more of its educational content and resources for the “Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning” website, featured in the videos and linked below.

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