The new ‘milk carton’: Gas stations post ads on their fuel pumps in search of missing children

September 29, 2021

Missing children used to appear on milk cartons across the United States. as part of the National Child Safety Council’s awareness campaign, which ran from the mid-1980s through the mid-1990s, before the AMBER Alert system was created in 1996.

Fast forward to 2021, and The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) has recently revived the milk carton idea for modern times, using today’s technology, reports Campaign US.

ToSreach its goal, the organization partnered with GSTV, a national media network in 26,000 U.S. gas stations, on ADAM (Automated Deliver of Alerts on Missing Children). The program is named in memory of Adam Walsh, the 6-year-old son of America’s Most Wanted host John Walsh; and brother of Callahan Walsh, executive director, Florida, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Adam Walsh was abducted from a mall in Hollywood, Florida in 1981 and later found murdered.

ADAM—created in partnership with data analytics company LexisNexis Risk Solutions—distributes missing child posters from NCMEC to targeted screens at gas stations in specific geographic search areas. Once a child is recovered, the images are taken down to protect the family’s privacy and replaced with images of another missing child.

Gas stations are a strategic location to advertise, as missing children are often spotted there as predators stop to refuel. Tips from ordinary citizens have been proven to be the most effective method for recovering missing children.

“We want to show the images of missing children in the places where they’re likely to be found to increase the probability that someone will recognize them and make that call,” Callahan Walsh recently told Campaign US.

NCMEC has worked with GSTV, which reaches 96 million people in the U.S. monthly, since 2019. Over that time period, campaigns have delivered over 600 million impressions across thousands of stations in 48 states—adding up to more than 2 million hours of airtime. Nearly 500 missing kids have been located at fuel retailers and convenience stores in the past six months.

“We take a lot of pride in being able to have a platform that we can leverage and do good,” said Violeta Ivezaj, senior vice president of Business Operations at GSTV. “It’s not just about advertisements and entertaining, but taking the opportunity to engage our viewers at a time where they’re extremely attentive. There isn’t a whole lot to do when you’re pumping gas.”

GSTV is recruiting employees from GSTV’s more than 40,000 fuel retail partners as well as trade associations for convenience stores, manufacturing partners and major oil companies. Staff also receive alerts at locations where there is a high likelihood of a predator who has abducted a child stopping to refuel.

“A light bulb went off and we thought, ‘What if all of the clerks and the people working at these stations are receiving the same alerts to their phones,’” said Dan Trotzer, executive vice president of Industry at GSTV. “They became the eyes and ears in their communities looking out for the safety of our kids.”

Research contact: @CampaignLiveUS

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