You can tell the people who have created some the latest Truth! ads grew up watching John Carpenter’s “The Thing,” which I remember as one of the scariest movies of all time.
The Truth! anti-smoking campaign got a lot of attention at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards for its puking unicorn ad. I actually found this ad pretty funny. This ad does a very witty take on various Internet memes to point out that “social smoking” and hookah smoking is a trap. You don’t just smoke a few cigarettes and then quit. It’s all still got nicotine and it’s all incredibly addictive. Today, you’re smoking a few cigs, tomorrow you’re smoking a pack a day. 30 years from now, you’ve failed to quit and now you have COPD or cancer.
Here is the “It’s a Trap!” ad:
However, over the past few months, I’ve seen an ever better ad campaign, that I know came from “The Thing” remake from about 1981. In these commercials, a really disgusting monster/giant spider attacks a teen or science teacher while someone explains how toxic and full of poisons it is.
As a bunch of teens scream and run away from it, the monster retreats into a pack of cigarettes. The point is, “if you really knew how scary cigarettes were, would you smoke them.”
Those commercials always reminded me of the damned head-crap scene from The Thing that completely freaked me out when I was about 17. This movie got panned reviews when it came out, but it’s now considered a cult horror classic with some of the most gruesome special effects imaginable for the day:
I love these commercials because kids love to be scared to this day and age. There aren’t as many horror movies geared to kids today as there were when I was a kid but it’s a great way to get the message through to kids that they can relate to — cigarette are scary. In a very gross and disgusting way. If you’ve ever watched someone die from COPD or cancer, it is very, very scary to see what it does to a person.
Wow, I saw an anti-smoking commercial this week that literally just made me cringe.
It’s from a campaign called “the Real Cost of Smoking.” In this ad, a guy goes to the counter to buy a pack of menthols and the clerk looks at his money and says, “that’s not enough.”
What does the guy do? He pulled out a pair of pliers and literally yanks out one of his teeth and drops it on the counter. “Oh, man …. I did not actually just see that,” was my reaction. I’ve seen it a few times since and every time, I look away … and I don’t even smoke. I can’t imagine how cringe-worthy the ad is for smokers to watch, which I suppose is the actual point.
The commercial goes on to say that smoking menthols causes gum damage.
There’s another “The Real Cost of Smoking” ad I saw a few weeks ago that’s almost as gross. A young woman goes to the counter in this one, the clerk likewise says, “that’s not enough,” and she peels the skin off her cheek and drops it on the counter. The point being that smoking causes skin damage.
These ads are actually from the Food and Drug Administration. These are the kind of ads I would expect from Truth.org but not the federal government. These are the first anti-smoking ads from the FDA, and they’re obviously taking a cue from Truth.org to create intense anti-smoking ads.
Anyway, here is the tooth-pulling ad. Watch it. If you dare.
I found this ad campaign absolutely fantastic from the consistently amazing Truth campaign (paid for by the American Legacy Foundation, which comes from Master Settlement Agreement funds — the tobacco industry itself pays for these ads, which has at times really pissed it off.).
It’s a series of images of young Hollywood actors puffing away with the meme “Unpaid Tobacco Spokesman” to creep shame these actors into realizing they’re setting a lame example for kids. They don’t look hip with a cigarette hanging out of their mouth, they don’t look cool, they just look stupid. The ad ends with “They’re the new face of Big Tobacco, and they don’t even know it.”
The ads are part of the Truth.org group’s “Finish it!” campaign, meaning the finish line to stamping out teen smoking is within site.
Included are the guy from Twilight … Edward something, Kristen Stewart, Mary-Kate Olson, Orlando Bloom (Ok, he’s 37, not so young), Chris Brown, Rihanna, Emma Roberts, etc. Young actors or singers. I even saw a flash of Keifer Sutherland in this ad.
Well, I don’t know about an absolute like that, I suspect we’ll never completely stamp it out, but the latest statistics are stunning. According to the Legacy Foundation, the teen smoking rate today is 9 percent, compared to 23 percent 15 years ago. (I know it’s been dropping dramatically, but 9 percent seems really low — according to the Centers for Disease Control, that rate was 14 percent in 2012.)
The AJA article points out that teens often follow what celebrities are doing on social media and the Truth campaign takes that phenomena and turns it on its head.
In nonprofit meetings across the country, I have no doubt that starry-eyed directors are telling their employees to come up with something that will go viral. The ice bucket challenge to support a cure for ALS was a moon shot, a one-in-a-million public relations hit that set a new standard for nonprofit outreach. Celebrities, politicians and a lot of people in your Facebook feed posted videos of themselves dumping bucketfuls of ice water on their heads, and a portion of them went on to learn about ALS and donate money for research. (The Truth campaign) It was a triumph of creativity and conformity at the same time.
What’s awesome about this Truth campaign is that it was Hollywood for decades and decades that for reasons that to this day mystify me, became the biggest FREE unofficial marketing force for cigarette use throughout much of the 20th century. Countless movies beginning in the 1930s showed smoking as being either tough, suave or cool, and this continued well after the 1964 Surgeon General report … and it was all for free. The tobacco industry didn’t pay a nickel for all that free advertising over the couse of decades. Not … a … nickel. Hard to believe. Big Tobacco didn’t start paying for product placement in movies until Superman II in 1980 and the MSA agreement in 1998 brought that to a halt, and yet smoking in movies actually went UP over the next decade.
Why? Because Hollywood is still stuck with some weird fixation that somehow smoking is cool, hip and suave (the music industry is much the same). They’re still stuck in the 1940s. Well, Humphrey Bogart, John Wayne and countless other stars from Hollywood’s Golden Age, died of cancer caused by their smoking. Only when studios were threatened with R ratings for depicting smoking in movies did studios really make the effort to curb smoking in movies.
The AJA article does acknowledge that one major factor for the rate of teen smoking dropping, is the meteoric rise in the use of e-cigs among teens. So, it might be roughly the same number of kids still using nicotine products. That’s the down side of these numbers.
Anyway, what’s awesome about the Truth campaign is that it’s helped change the playing field — where once smoking was cool and hip, now it’s seen as stupid. Years ago, Hollywood actors were the icons of making cigarettes cool, now those same techniques are being used to make entertainers look stupid for smoking.
The AJA article:
Reducing teen smoking is no doubt a worthy goal, and the Legacy Foundation has done a better job than most nonprofits getting its message to the people who need to hear it. The foundation received its last major settlement check in 2003 but made it last through prudent financial management. It has successfully undone much of the tobacco industry’s harmful misinformation and it did it in 15 years with rhetoric instead of punishment. Teen smokers can blame Truth when their friends hassle them for lighting up, and the organization deserves credit for that.
As an aside, I would be DYING to know what some of these celebrities think about being featured in this ad. I doubt very many of them are happy about it.