By Jerome Tharaud/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
Rocky Boy children will be featured in a television commercial that will air on several major networks beginning this October.
The commercial, which was shot at several locations in Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation Thursday, as well as in Big Sandy, is part of a government-sponsored campaign to promote healthy, active lifestyles among children.
"It's nice to be out here. It's a beautiful place and the issues are important. I think it's something advertisers should do more of," said Los Angeles-based director Joe Pytka, who has directed commercials for major companies like Pepsi, Nike and Disney.
Pytka said he is using between 20 and 30 local kids for the commercial, which will be about 30 seconds long.
"We could have shot this in L.A.," Pytka said. "It would have been 10 times easier, but it would have been fake."
The commercial is part of the VERB campaign, which is funded by Congress and run through the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta. Since it began last year, VERB has spent millions of dollars to promote healthy lifestyles through ads in magazines, newspapers and radio, and television commercials, said Paula Londe, health communication specialist at CDC.
"It's a campaign to encourage children to be physically active every day," Londe said. "With so many media options like TVs and computers, they're spending more time sitting still instead of outside playing. So we want to show the fun and possibilities of playing outside."
Londe said VERB is specifically designed to appeal to children in different ethnic groups. Separate commercials are being produced for Asian-American, black, and Hispanic children groups and incorporate the culture and in some cases the language of the groups involved. This is the first year VERB will run a commercial designed to reach American Indian children, she said.
Having characters and places Indian kids can relate to will make the campaign more likely to have an effect on them, she said.
"Being able to see yourself and where you live displayed helps you recognize that you can participate in this too," Londe said.
Michael Gray, creative director and owner of G & G Advertising, the Albuquerque, N.M.-based advertising company that is producing the commercial, said the project is important because American Indians are often overlooked even though there are serious diabetes and weight issues in Indian Country.
"It's important for us that if the government wants to reach out with a cause, American Indians aren't overlooked," Gray said. He added that the commercial is being made to appeal to children who are not Indian as well. Gray, who attended grade school at Rocky Boy, said the commercial will be featured in about 20 different markets, including Great Falls, Bismarck, N.D., Albuquerque, and Phoenix. It will run for about 13 weeks, he said, and will reach most of the Indian kids in those markets.
Londe said the commercial, designed to target kids age 9 to13, will air on youth-oriented networks like MTV, TNT and USA. VERB has funding for five years, but Londe said it was intended to reach beyond five years.
After the commercial part of the campaign, VERB will focus on some of the other ways it tries to reach out to communities, including attending community events, parent education and promoting VERB merchandise, she said.