The 80s were the advent, and perhaps the golden age of the music video. When MTV launched in 1981, the world changed.
This includes the world of public health. By the mid-1980s, it became apparent that reaching young adults with social messages through music video held more than high promise. In 1986, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Center for Communication Programs (JHU·CCP) – with funding through the PCS (Population Communication Services) project supported by USAID – was asked by Patrick L. Coleman, Director of Latin American Programs for JHU·CCP at the time to develop an innovative social campaign to reach youth. This set the wheels in motion for a blockbuster music video in Latin America titled Cuando Estemos Juntos that would permanently affect the role social and behavior change communication played in public health campaigns.
The music video for Cuando Estemos Juntos (or “When We Are Together”) starred teen stars Jonny Lozada of Menudo fame and a newcomer to the Mexican pop scene named Tatiana Palacios. FFI, a Mexican marketing group, played a lead role in the project design and management. In the video, Tatiana and Johnny sang about the controversial topic of teen sexuality while delivering a message of responsibility in a way that leveraged the medium of music video previously not seen before. The video was highly appealing to teens on an entertainment level. As the saying goes, “when you lecture, you lecture alone. When you sing, the world sings with you.” Ultimately, the video paved the way for additional campaigns in the 1980s in countries outside Latin America (notably in the Philippines which featured Menudo again, this time with Ricky Martin, which we’ll cover in next week’s post.)
The campaign’s success was showcased at the first International Conference on Entertainment-Education and Social Change in 1989 and is still used today as a model for entertainment education programs. Palacio said at the time, “To those who say that young people never listen to lyrics, I can show you thousands of letters sent to me, to the radio stations, and to the youth centers commenting on the messages. The message in the songs was clear: you have to wait until you are mature enough, physically and mentally, before bringing children into this world.”
So where are they now? Johnny Lozada hosts Univision‘s morning news show ¡Despierta América! (or Wake Up America!). Tatiana Palacios, whose popularity increased immensely after the video, remains an active recording artist in Mexico and has recorded more than 25 albums for both children and adults.
And in the realm of social and behavior change communication – Tatiana and Johnny proved that the entertainment-education model works. Alice Payne Merritt, now Director of Global Programs at JHU·CCP, at the time worked with radio stations and youth groups throughout Latin America to capitalize on the increased conversation about sexual responsibility. Through the youth groups, Merritt learned that the videos opened up lines of communication between teens and parents, and between teens and their peers.
For public health practitioners, it paved the way for best practices in crafting entertainment education.
Merritt relays lessons learned about engaging young, emerging artists in campaigns with a youth focus. “It’s a win-win,” explains Merritt. “The artist gets exposure that it would have taken them longer to develop, and for those in entertainment- education, there’s the ability to showcase this new, up-and- coming talent in a way that’s approachable, as well as affordable.”
The message of Tatiana and Johnny lives on– on YouTube that is. The 28 year-old video duet on sexual responsibility to date has over 1.1 million hits with comments that are a testament to the lasting affect it had on those who were teenagers back in 1986.