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Anti-smoking ads often use fear tactics to encourage quitting, but ‘The Reasons’ is a campaign from Tobacco Free Florida that takes a different approach. By portraying smokers in a way that doesn't hold their habit in contempt, it empathises with the reasons they smoke – and want to quit. We discover the insights behind the ad.

Directed towards rural communities in Florida – where smoking rates are 33% above non-rural Florida – 'The Reasons' encourages smokers to quit with empathy, rather than the scare tactics frequently seen in health-related campaigns. One of the vignettes features Robert, a 29-year-old father of three, who wants to quit smoking so he can be in good health for his children and grandchildren. Another sees Adam, an army veteran whose father passed away from lung cancer, speak candidly on the difficulty of quitting. “I pride myself on my family, and I want them to be proud of me,” says Christy, an agricultural worker, about why she wanted to quit.

Shockvertising isn’t always the best way to break a habit
AlmaAgency | YouTube (2018) ©

Tobacco Free Florida could have easily focused on the well-documented dangers of smoking, highlighting how Floridians are burdened with $8.64 billion in annual healthcare costs due to the habit, which causes almost a third of cancer deaths. Instead, the campaign chooses a positive route by showcasing people’s motivations for quitting. “We… learned that those same scare tactic approaches don’t always connect,” says Angela Rodriguez, VP of strategic planning and insights at Alma. "So we shifted our strategy to a more empathetic one… The result is [a] very emotive creative that is respectful of the smokers we are trying to reach.”

The benefits of a positive approach aren’t limited to smoking campaigns. A 2018 study found that positively framed advertising is, on average, more effective depending on the type of person targeted. For ‘prevention-focused’ people, who tend to consider possible negative outcomes when choosing a product, it’s more complicated, but if the product is functional (to aid quitting smoking, for example), positively framed advertisements can be more persuasive. Nicorette's 'Quitting Sucks’ and the British Heart Foundation's 'Bag it. Beat it.' campaigns tackle public health problems in a similar manner to Alma and Tobacco Free Florida’s campaign, each catering to people’s desire to be understood rather than frightened into change.

Safa Amirbayat is a junior behavioural analyst at Canvas8 which specialises in behavioural insights and consumer research.. An economics graduate from University College London, he can be found boxing or reading a novel outside of work.

Canvas8

23 Apr 18
3 min read

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