There are successful anti-smoking ads, and then there are not

The FDA has released its newest anti-smoking ad, reaching out to teens.

The ads saw teens stopping by a convenience store, Jiffy, and handing the cashier cash for a pack of smokes. The cashier responds that cash alone isn’t enough. The male teen removes a tooth with a pair of pliers while the girl rips off a part of her face. The message: The real cost of smoking.

The last of the three part ads sees a miniature sized man playing the role of a cigarette and his demanding ways with children. The idea is that smoking controls your life, such as that of a bully.

The campaigns were created by Draftfcb and will launch in 200 markets starting 11 February. The USD $115 million campaign will run across all medium that targets teens between 12 to 17 years old.

The US federal government launched its national anti-smoking campaign in 2009 and has since recorded to have influenced over 100,000 adults to quit the habit.

Success in the western hemisphere!

The last anti-smoking campaign that Malaysia ran was in 2010. Tak Nak Merokok was launched in 2004 with posters, billboards, in print, radio and television air time. It fizzled out after results proved that the advertising strategy was ineffective.

The TVC that ran follows a nurse in a hospital, overseeing patients of smoking diseases. Like true Malaysian fashion to instil fear and morbidity, the three minutes long ad ends with the nurse’s son picking up a pack of cigarettes from the floor and her telling him not to break her heart. The TVC was one of the last trail of Tak Nak before it fizzled out after results proved that the country’s advertising strategy was ineffective.

According to Global Adult Survey Tobacco, the number of smokers in Malaysia is actually increasing, with a majority of respondents finding the anti-smoking advertising messages ‘neutral’. The World Health Organisation (WHO) reports that nearly 10,000 Malaysians die each year from smoking. That number is predicted to increase to 8 million globally by 2030.

The reason Malaysia has found minimal success in its anti-smoking rally may be according to Joyce Wolburg’s 2001 hypothesis that social advertising campaigns are usually ineffective because advertising messages generally encourage consumption rather than discourage consumption behaviours.

“The cessation messages are not offering realistic quit strategies and most of these messages are overly simplistic solutions,” said Wolburg, associate professor in Marquette’s advertising and public relations department.

On average, Malaysians reported to be annoyed to the point of wanting a cigarette by the nation’s approach to anti-smoking rather than discouraged.

Since its 2010 release, the federal government of Malaysia has not released another anti-smoking campaign.

Closer to home, the Thai Health Promotion Foundation launched what is now being called as the best anti-smoking ad of all time, Smoking Kid, produced by Ogilvy & Mather Bangkok.

Will the Health Ministry of Malaysia be looking at launching a new anti-smoking campaign in the near future? And if so, would they dump their overuse of fear arousing method in its ads?

(Read also: [LOOK] Smoking kills you… and your wallet, Marijuana’s legal in Colorado, but not on Google, Tobacco marketing thrives, despite ban)

Vivian Chong
Advertising+Marketing Magazine Malaysia

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