Plans for Social Marketing Institute Go Awry with Departure of Key Player

Center for the Advancement of Social Marketing

From 1999 to 2001, Alan R. Andreasen, Ph.D., professor of marketing at Georgetown University, Washington, and William D. Novelli, then president of the Center for Tobacco-Free Kids, Washington, (now president and CEO of AARP), worked with a team of experts in communications, marketing, research, business and public policy to lay the groundwork for the Center for the Advancement of Social Marketing, later named the Social Marketing Institute.

The vision for the institute called for it to "accelerate, improve and document the practice of health and social change in the United States and elsewhere."

Key Results

During the grant, the following was accomplished:

  • The Social Marketing Institute was formally incorporated in Washington as a nonprofit organization.
  • The advisory committee selected three strong candidates for executive director from an initial pool of 120 following a formal search.
  • The committee established a board of directors for the institute.
  • The committee developed a five-year business plan for the institute that included detailed revenue and budget projections.
  • Staff designed and launched a Web site, which still exists.

After the Grant

In 2001, RWJF decided not to provide additional funding for the implementation of the institute for the following reasons:

  • Novelli, considered key to the implementation of the institute, took a new job in early 2001 at AARP, where he is now president and CEO, and no longer had the time to devote to developing and establishing the institute.
  • Without the direction, hands-on social marketing experience and business connections provided by Novelli, RWJF was concerned that the institute would take too much of an academic, theoretical shape and not fulfill its original purpose and vision.
  • During the grant period, RWJF concluded that the focus of social marketing — and therefore the design of the institute — was too narrow, and what was really needed was a new language and model to affect social change that combined the principles of social marketing with media relations, partnership building and public policy advocacy.


The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) supported planning efforts for the institute with a $643,660 grant from September 1999 to July 2001.