Monday, April 19, 2010

Smoke gets in your eyes. And so does lardy cheese-pea arteries.

Darned cigarette ads.

Listen up advertisers: Your target audience is anyone who smokes cigarettes. The best way to reach them in a meaningful way is through cigarette packets. When they light up, they get to see disgusting images and horrible captions that tell them they'll die a horrid death. It's about as targeted and timely as Google!

And you know what else? Everyone watches TV and views billboards. If you put an ad on there, you're showing disgusting images and horrible captions to everyone. I don't know what the stats are but you could have 60 or 70% of people viewing who don't smoke.

Plus, this 60 or 70% don't smoke didn't sign up to this. Switch it off, please. I'll buy a pack of cigarettes if I want to see this stuff.

Personally, I've just gone from watching pavlova on Masterchef to some kind of grey cheese being squeezed out of an aorta. Who is planning these ads? Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall? Bear Grylls? Armin Meiwes?

Where I used to work, before it went bust and we all ended up on the dole, our starting point with any campaign was with our target audience.

It wasn't enough to say X company wants to say Y, so let's make Y really funny and/or pretty and/or repetitive so it sticks in people's heads.

See, most clients want their fair spoonful of ROI. But they generally don't want to serve up their ads like an all-you-can-eat buffet cos it's costs too much to serve people you're not targeting.

The other problem with the all-you-can-eat campaign is that, while it's really loud and annoying and everyone remembers it, no one ends up loving you or your product. And, importantly, they don't make purchasing decisions based on it.

The reason is that you don't know enough about the ideas and beliefs of your target audience, and you haven't tailored your advertising to what they want to hear. People outside your target audience couldn't care less, while your target audience are cheesed off because you haven't worked hard enough to show them you know what they're after.

What the Cancer Institute NSW have done is produced an ad that not only is an amalgamation of a heap of old ads (cheap) but:

1. Isn't solely about cancer
2. Isn't targeted at smokers
3. Is so offensive it's flagged on YouTube.


4. Is on Australian TV all the time.

Who's paying for all this? Donators like me?


  1. Hi - I work at the Cancer Institute, but not in the area that runs these campaigns, so am not the expert and can't comment on any of the choices made along the way.

    But I think the campaign is as much about preventing people from starting smoking in the first place as encouraging addicts to quit. It is really far more effective in reducing the health impacts if people don't get addicted first.

    I agree it is gross and offensive, but that is the point isn't it? If the prevailing community attitude to smoking is reinforced as one of revulsion, and that reduces the number of people who take it up, then that's arguably a good thing.

    Just another point of view - personally I'm not sure if it's a good approach to encouraging quitting, but I think it does at least discourage positive attitudes toward smoking(remember it wasn't that long ago when it was still OK to light up at work and in restaurants).

    If interested, you can find some of the studies done around these campaigns here:

  2. Hi Anonymous. Thanks for your opinions, they're welcome here.

    I agree that the ad is offensive, and creates some sort of association which may be important.

    However, I am not clear that it does anything more than be offensive to EVERYONE, rather than focusing on the two audiences (smokers and 'nearly-smokers') you have highlighted.

    Do you really think those two audiences are alike? And, thinking briefly about age, status and demographics, do you think their behaviour and choices can be influenced by using the same approach?

    I think you'll agree that the answer to both these questions is no.

    Take age. 'Nearly-smokers' will likely be under 18 and hugely influenced by their peer group. They'll take up smoking knowing the risks, but eased by the certain knowledge that they'll quit before they get old and ill like the people in the ad.

    So the ad won't influence their choice.

    And, for the smoking audience, I don't think it's particularly effective at changing the decision-forming beliefs of a smoking audience for whom you need to continually up the level of shock.


Say what you like - honest - but don't be abusive hey, I'm not pretending to know it all.