Pfizer’s Quit Smoking ads

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Ask any smoker if the habit is harmful and you would get an affirmative answer. While the benefits of quitting are known, irrational that we are, smoking cessation is difficult. People quit smoking due to pressure from loved ones, media reports or a ‘call from within’. There have been several anti-smoking ads or campaigns in the past (they seem to have an uncanny ability to sprout in December). They typically dramatize the ills of smoking.

But advertising has played a limited role in helping those want to quit or have quit but relapsed. The latter group is the target audience for an interesting campaign from Pfizer India. I was happy to see such efforts going on to mass media, rather than being limited to a on-ground activity or one-off press ads.

The insight is quite relatable. Those who decide to kick the habit relapse into it within a short period of time. Or at least have the urge to puff one – due to peer pressure or sheer habit. Often, the promise of not going back to the habit is made to the wife or child. And is purely based on trust. You give your word and are expected to honour it. The ad attempts to play on the guilt factor of a protagonist who has broken this trust. The idea seems very powerful, because one does not want to ‘fall in the eye’ of those who trust us – especially children. The key to a successful cessation is not breaking the promise and they have got it bang on.

But the overall execution is a bit tacky. Do you really expect the father to mouth that dialogue in real life? If the ad was slightly more realistic & believable, with the same insight, it would have worked better. The attempt to encourage those who want to quit is also apparent in the branding – Champs Club.

The online support to the TVC is interesting. Apart from a helpline, the site has details of smoking cessation clinics, benefits of quitting smoking and other quitting sites.

Communication with an objective of changing people’s habits is always a tough one. In India, getting people used to the concept of cold breakfast (cereals) by changing their habit of a hot breakfast has taken years to bear fruit. When it comes to irrational choices like smoking, its an even more uphill task.

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