Anti-smoking ads: time to change the pitch?

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Smoking is an irrational habit. Over the years, we have all been told about the ill-effects of the habit – it causes cancer, heart attack and damages your lungs –some great campaigns have been done for the cause . There have been other ‘pitches’ urging smokers to give up the habit: your body is your home, said a famous campaign. A latest campaign from the Russian Ministry of Health, has a similar message.


Agency: BBDO, Moscow

While such campaigns deserve applause, one can’t help feeling that they will have a limited impact – purely in terms of actually effecting a change in behaviour. These campaigns dramatically present a proposition which is already known as fact. As I said, since the habit is irrational (you know it is not a good habit, yet continue with it knowingly) it is only likely to affirm what a smoker already knows, but doing precious little about it.

What if we change tack and make it an emotional appeal? What if we sharply target the older smokers (who are likely to have kids) and urge them to give it up for their family’s sake? I feel youngsters who take up the habit unfortunately are unlikely to be affected much with a ‘give it up for your family’s sake’ kind of message. But if we target the 30-45 age group, those who are likely to have young children and create messages from the child’s perspective we may stand a better chance of an anti-smoking campaign being effective in getting someone to quit the habit. We have to think beyond mere aesthetic impact of the campaign and focus on the campaign getting the job done. The campaign from Melbourne’s TAC may serve as a good pointer – even scaring the hell out of someone (within family context) to quit the habit may work.

I am sure there are such anti-smoking campaigns – just that when you think of an anti-smoking campaigns such emotional pitches don’t automatically come to your  mind. Do share any such campaign (with an emotional pitch) on anti-smoking and comment in with your thoughts.

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  1. I completely agree, Lucky. I had stumbled upon this insight many many years back…targeting smokers who had kids…this would be a great motivator. The execution was a lenticular poster which showed two images…from one angle you could see a grown man about to take a puff from a ciggy…the other image was a little girl of about 6 or 7 years, who’s exhaling a cloud of smoke…the line was something like…”When you smoke, your child smokes too.”

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