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These Incredibly Crafted Anti-Smoking Ads Drop the Fear Tactics in Favor of Empathy

They know smoking is dangerous. They know it’s expensive. They know it makes them a bad influence on their kids.
And they know they need to quit.
In these new, documentary-style PSAs for Tobacco Free Florida, agency Alma takes a refreshingly respectful approach to encouraging smokers to quit. Instead of extreme scare tactics, the ads acknowledge that smokers are often fully aware of the dangers and costs of smoking—and that they’re struggling to make the right choice.
Aimed at Florida’s rural communities, where the agency says smoking rates are 33 percent higher than the rest of the state, the real-life vignettes introduce us to smokers—most often working parents under daily financial stress—who admit they’re tired of the physical and financial toll of smoking.
“I’m tired of not being able to breathe. I’m tired of wasting my money on cigarettes,” says Robert, a 29-year-old father of three. “I don’t want to smoke, because I don’t want to be like my dad. I don’t want to be in a wheelchair with an oxygen machine behind me. I want to be there with my children and grandchildren.”
Christy, a citrus inspector who works incredibly long days, wants to quit because she knows it would make her children more proud of her.
“It takes energy from me. It slows me down. It’s costly. I spend a little over $6 on a pack of cigarettes,” she said. “If you calculated what I spent in a week…it’s terrible. I could probably pay my family’s bills. It’s embarrassing. It’s so embarrassing.”
“I pride myself on my family,” she says, “and I want them to be proud of me.”
The campaign is based on research into both its target audience and the tactics that might actually change their behaviors.
“While smoking in Florida is low, there are geographic and demographic inequalities across the state with higher smoking rates in rural counties,” says Angela Rodriguez, Alma’s vp of strategic planning and insights. “We undertook ethnographic research last year to understand why and exposed that the journey to quitting is driven by the hopes smokers have for themselves and their children.”
These aspirations showed that cessation is about bigger, longer-term dreams more than about being scared or lectured into the right decision.
“We also learned that those same scare tactic approaches don’t always connect. So we shifted our strategy to a more empathetic one driven by the target’s introspection versus preaching from the brand and the result is very emotive creative that is respectful of the smokers we are trying to reach while also communicating that Tobacco Free Florida is here as a partner.”