Anti-smoking campaign takes less defiant tack

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Smoking had long been a hallmark of teenage rebellion when “Truth,” a campaign from Legacy, introduced its first anti-smoking commercial in 2000. In the commercial, young people gather at the New York headquarters of the Philip Morris tobacco company and dump 1,200 body bags, representing the number of daily deaths attributed to smoking. The spot sought to shift a perception of cigarettes as a symbol of rebellion to one of the tobacco industry as the real enemy to rebel against.

The continuing “Truth” effort has been widely viewed as a success. A 2009 study in The American Journal of Preventive Medicine, for example, found that from 2000 through 2004, the effort was directly responsible for preventing 450,000 teenagers from starting to smoke.

Now Legacy is about to introduce a new effort on behalf of the “Truth” campaign, “Finish It,” which takes a decidedly less rebellious tone.

A new commercial opens with “Revolusion,” a song by Swedish performer Elliphant, and white text against an orange background. “In 2000, 23 percent of teens smoked,” it reads. “Today, only 9 percent of teens smoke. That’s less than the number of VHS tapes sold in 2013. It’s less than the number of landlines still in use. But the fight isn’t over.”

The spot shows photographs that teenage users of Facebook and Instagram have posted of themselves trying to look tough or sexy while smoking, which have garnered hundreds of “likes” from their friends on the social networks.

Similar to the Human Rights Campaign, which last year asked social media users to change their profile pictures to a version of its logo, an equal sign, to show support for marriage equality, the campaign urges teenagers to change their profile pictures, too.

As detailed in the spot, on thetruth.com website users can superimpose a logo for the campaign, an “X” in an orange square, onto a profile picture, meaning their faces are still visible.

“We have the power,” text in the spot concludes. “We have the creativity. We will be the generation that ends smoking. Finish it.”

The commercial, which will be introduced today, is part of a campaign that includes cinema advertising and digital advertising, and is being pitched to consumers ages 15 to 21.

It is the first campaign for Legacy — formerly known as the American Legacy Foundation — by 72andSunny in Los Angeles, which is owned by MDC Partners. The foundation will spend an estimated $130 million on advertising over the next three years on all its anti-smoking campaigns, which include efforts that focus on older smokers.

Created as part of the landmark 1998 settlement between the tobacco industry and attorneys general, the foundation received its last major payment from the settlement in 2003, and now relies on investment income from the original funding and new fundraising.

When the “Truth” campaign was introduced 14 years ago, the subject of the foundation’s commercials was a trove of internal marketing documents from tobacco companies that had come to light as part of the attorneys general suit. Ads built on the documents, like a 1984 R.J. Reynolds report that stated, “younger adult smokers are the only source of replacement smokers,” had the intended effect of infuriating younger consumers.

But Glenn Cole, chief creative officer of 72andSunny, said that blatant examples of marketing cigarettes to younger consumers were no longer appearing with the same frequency and teenagers today were more drawn to taking positive action than protesting.

“In the past work, there’s a clear enemy, an opposing force, and that was Big Tobacco, and they’re still there,” Mr. Cole said, adding that with the portion of teenage nonsmokers at 91 percent, the new strategy is to enlist them to persuade peers to not smoke.

“An insight we built this campaign around is that this up-and-coming generation is just craving to be agents of social change,” Mr. Cole continued, “and their biggest frustration is that they just don’t know how to do it.”

Philip Morris International Inc


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