Have I got an investment opportunity for you!
Sit down, relax, and pour yourself a cup of coffee. My idea might sound strange at first, but hear me out.
We’re going to make a film. A short, more accurately. It will be about one minute long. We’ll do some thirty second versions as well.
We’re going to spare no expense in making this movie. We’ll hire the cleverest, coolest director, an experienced crew, and we’ll splurge on location, talent, props, and special effects. We’ll get famous actors, athletes, and pop stars to be in it.
We’ll also hire some brainy nerds to research our target audience and make sure our message is going to resonate perfectly with their demographic. We can even do different versions of the film for different parts of the country, different age groups, and different interest groups. Whatever it takes to reach as many people as possible with our message.
Production costs will probably set us back half a million. A little steep for a short film, but a drop in the bucket compared to the money we’re going to make (well, the money we’ll save, technically, but it will feel like we’re making money).
So are we going to charge people to see our short? Are we going to send it to film festivals and hope we get accepted?
No way! We’re going to go direct to the public. We’re going to pay money to broadcast and cable networks to show our film on television. Sure, it will cost a little more. If we go big, which we should, we’ll be out another 10 million (with that kind of budget, we might even be able to afford a Superbowl spot). We should probably invest another half million in billboard advertising to help spread the message, so that brings us to $11M total for production, distribution, and advertising.
You know what? We should really take this idea to the next level. Let’s create an entire organization to produce and air a short film like this every year. I realize that will bump the cost significantly. It will probably cost us $100M a year to fund the organization, the production costs, and the air time.
What was that? You had a question? What are these short films about?
Yes, I should have mentioned that. A simple idea really. Smoking is bad for you. You shouldn’t start smoking, and if you smoke, you should quit.
Yes, I know everyone knows that already.
So what’s the point, you ask?
Well, the last time someone tried this, about 300,000 children decided to *not* start smoking because of the ads they say on TV. That translates into about one billion in saved healthcare costs, every year.
So there you go — invest one hundred million and save a billion. That’s a 1000% return. It will take a few decades to see the first returns, but once they start rolling in, they’ll keep coming.
I know it’s hard for you to think more than four years into the future, but we’re in this for the long haul, aren’t we?
You’ve been freaking out about Medicare costs. Well, this is part of the solution. I’ve got some more ideas too. We can do a similar campaign to improve nutrition and slash Type 2 diabetes. Maybe another to encourage breastfeeding (that would save, oh, I don’t know, maybe another $3.6 billion annually).
My point is, there’s money lying on the ground, and we should pick some of it up and pocket it. These isn’t some wild shot-in-the-dark investment scheme. The research is already there. Unless human nature or human physiology changes radically in the next few decades, we can predict pretty well what will happen when we invest in sensible, persuasive health messages. People will get healthier, and we’ll save huge amounts of money on healthcare alone. The productivity boost will be gravy.
Okay, you think about it. You think about if investing in the health of your citizens makes sense. You think about if picking up stacks of cash that are lying on the ground makes sense.
Next week, maybe we’ll talk about funding early childhood education, and public (free) universities. Is it conceivable that having a more intelligent, better educated populace could somehow pay future dividends for our country? Or is that idea too radical?