A tinfoil-hat-wearing man. A floating infant in the sky. A glowing pufferfish. A washing machine with cartoon arms. A scowling George Washington. What in the Great Baby is going on with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s official Twitter feed?
Twitter users are used to brands being weird on Twitter (we see you, Wendy’s), but we’re not used to official government agencies getting in on the fun. So the official CPSC Twitter feed really stands out—and that is entirely the point.
You see, September was Baby Safety Month, and the CPSC needed to spread urgent messages about how parents can keep their precious angels safe. It also needed those messages to stand out in a sea of tweets and Facebook posts so they would be seen by and resonate with a new generation of parents who may not know to lay a baby on its back without extra pillows or blankets. Hence the creation of The Great Baby, a giant baby floating over a field and warning a farmer about the dangers of dangling cords and extra blankets.
“We’re not a big agency,” says Joseph Galbo, a social media specialist at the CPSC who came up with the campaign. “I thought a giant baby in the sky would be a good way to get people to pay attention to the important message.”
And an important message it is: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were about 3,600 sudden unexpected infant deaths in 2017. About 900 of those were due to accidental suffocation or strangulation in bed.
— US Consumer Product Safety Commission (@USCPSC) October 1, 2019
Galbo had been using a stock photo of a baby to illustrate his posts for about three years (“It was a baby in a force field,” he clarifies), but this year he wanted to do something a little different. “I like the idea of the baby floating in the air,” Galbo says. “How often do you see people on TV or in movies get visited by a large floating baby? Not that often.”
So he used his admittedly non-professional-level Photoshop skills to create a baby that was a bit like a combination of The Great Pumpkin and the floating sun baby from The Teletubbies, although Galbo denies that was the inspiration behind it.
— US Consumer Product Safety Commission (@USCPSC) September 29, 2019
During his three years at the CPSC, Galbo had developed a roster of characters to illustrate his important tweets about wearing helmets, safe sleeping, and bounce-house safety, and he thought The Great Baby would be a good addition to the team. Since there was no one to talk him out of it, he unleashed The Great Baby on the world to preach the gospel of child safety.
“I found a photo of a farmer in a field and thought, yeah, that looks like someone a giant baby might visit, and it just kind of took off from there,” Galbo says.
The result is a Twitter campaign quite unlike anything else put out by a federal regulatory agency, which is probably a good thing. As Galbo’s surreal tweets zipped around the internet, people responded to them in droves. They may have been laughing at the odd imagery, but they were also reading those all-important baby safety tips. How could you not remember to put a baby to sleep on its back after being warned about it by a giant floating baby?
“If you don’t have any money to do it, you’re gonna have to be ridiculous,” Galbo says.
— US Consumer Product Safety Commission (@USCPSC) September 27, 2019
When Galbo put three of his earlier tweets together into a collage, he struck Twitter Yahtzee. The child safety tips he was sharing were retweeted over 1,700 times and liked by nearly 6,000 tweeters. Not bad for a federal regulatory agency spreading the word about Baby Safety Month. The EPA and the FDA, both much larger regulatory agencies with much larger budgets, rarely get that sort of traction on Twitter.
“If I had a larger social media advertising budget, I probably would be making things that are a little bit more normal,” Galbo admits, but he stands behind the combination of odd imagery and important message. “If you get people to pay attention, you can save kids’ lives.”
Personally, I can’t wait for the eventual BuzzFeed story where they interview The Great Baby in 20 years.