Meals on Wheels asks Americans to do lunch, for their own good

Phase two of the heartwarming recruitment campaign lands this week.

Aging is, among other things, often a process of isolation. In the U.S. today, over ten million seniors live alone, and ten million are food insecure. The overlap between the two is not insignificant. It’s easy for younger Americans to forget about this invisible population, and about the fact that one day, they might be part of it.

One of the most successful strategies for combating the crisis is Meals on Wheels, the nationwide program that pairs seniors with a volunteer who brings them a hot meal and some much-needed company. But with the number of seniors set to double by 2050, simply relying on the system isn’t enough, so Meals on Wheels is going all-in on recruitment efforts.

After the successful 2016 launch of their inaugural advertising push, "America, Let’s Do Lunch," the organization yesterday released round two, in partnership with the Ad Council and creative agency Anomaly. 

"It’s about making people understand the power of that human connection," said Ad Council head of campaign development Heidi Arthur. "People wonder—we have Seamless, why would a person need to deliver a meal? But you’re not just delivering a meal, you’re giving someone a human being to relate to." 


The inaugural round of the "Lunch" campaign focused on seniors themselves, highlighting the amazing life stories too often forgotten as people age. Following that campaign, which was responsible for signing up nearly 90,000 new volunteers, the Ad Council did significant research on where to go next. Results were clear, if a bit surprising. "We found that volunteers sometimes felt selfish because they got so much out of it," Arthur said. 

So, they decided to focus the continuation on those volunteers. The tagline for this campaign is "Drop off a warm meal and get more than you expect," and the creative highlights the ways in which volunteering for Meals on Wheels has changed the lives of the volunteers, not just the seniors they visit. In one spot, a young couple reveals that their Meals on Wheels senior was the first person they told about a new pregnancy. In the other, a middle-aged woman talks about the 13-year-long friendship her volunteering has fostered. "We decided to home in on the bond between senior and volunteer, showcasing that both parties get something out of the experience," says Eric Segal, Anomaly’s chief creative officer. 

The campaign is also about recruiting a new generation of volunteers, since the research revealed that the majority of Meals on Wheels volunteers are over 55, with some in their 70s and 80s. Arthur is quick to praise the dedication of these volunteers but also highlighted the need to make Meals on Wheels sustainable into the future, which was achievable through simple raising of awareness. 

"We found that people thought of Meals on Wheels as an old brand—they had positive feelings, but beyond delivering a meal, it wasn’t that distinctive," she says. By showing the deep relationships the program fosters, "people [can] understand the instant and immediate reward firsthand." 


Thanks to the Ad Council’s wide reach, "Lunch" is a fully-integrated campaign. Facebook and Instagram offered special partnerships to better reach younger users, and influencers like Ari Seth Cohen of Advanced Style are helping to spread the word, too. 

As the campaign rolls out, the Ad Council is closely tracking response—not just in the form of volunteer signups, but also overall brand awareness. And because that brand is all about the people whose lives it affects, Meals on Wheels hopes to make an even bigger change, Arthur says. "By focusing on these magnificent people with tremendous personalities, it helps reframe what it means to be older in our country today."

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