Indian women are among the worst in the world when it comes to smoking. According to the latest Tobacco Atlas, the country ranks third in the top 20 female smoking populations across the globe.
Only the US with 2.3 crore female smokers and China with 1.3 crore women smokers are worse off than India.
Tobacco usage in India claims more than 800000 lives annually. Globally the number of smokers is expected to rise to 1.7 billion by 2020. Ninety percent of the smokers in the country start smoking before they are 24 years old. Half the male tuberculosis deaths in India are caused by smoking. If smoking is unchecked, by 2020, millions of people in India will become regular smokers. Most of them experience their first puff before attaining the age 18. What is most disturbing is the steady rise in the numbers of teenagers, some of them as young as 14 or 15 years. Out of the 1000 teenagers who smoke, at least 500 have been found to die of tobacco-related diseases.
In USA, the drop in smoking has been attributed to a number of reasons – a growing awareness about the health-damaging effects of smoking, rising cigarette prices, rising cigarette taxes, aggressive anti-smoking campaigns and a decline in the social acceptability of smoking.
Disastrous Effects of Smoking
Smoking predisposes to oral, lung, and other cancers. Smokers are more likely to suffer from high blood pressure and to experience a heart-attack or stroke. Smokers are also at increased risk of disturbances ranging from dental caries to osteoporosis. Women smokers are more likely to have abortions. Their children are more likely to have behavioral disorders. Non-smokers, who regularly inhale cigarette smoke, also suffer higher medical risk. A study of half a million Americans who were followed-up for an average of nine years, showed that the risk of death was doubled in smokers. *As many as 2200 Indians stop smoking every day – by dying. Tobacco is the second major cause of death in the world.
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Forty percent of the cancer detected in India, is because of tobacco use. With every cigarette, you ingest a staggering 4700 chemicals, 42 carcinogens or cancer-causing substance. One cigarette and one beedi reduce seven minutes of your life. Approximately Rs.27000 crores in terms of healthcare costs and lost productively. One packet of Pan Parrag or Hans reduces four minutes of your life. It causes sexual impotency in men, miscarriage and infertility in women, wrinkled skin, stained teeth, bad odour, mouth ulceration and difficulty in swallowing.
Every organ in the body is affected from head to toe, especially the brain, lungs and heart attacks, chronic cough and lung disease, worsened condition of diabetes, blood pressure and lower stamina. Babies born to mothers who smoke can be sicker, die suddenly, or have more infections of the middle ear, coughing and wheezing. Tobacco-related causes lead, every year in India, to 20000 amputations besides frightening diseases like lung/oral cancer, stroke and heart problems and over eight lakh deaths compared to 60000 from road accidents. Cause problems to family, friends and co-workers from the smoke from the cigarette – exposing them to the same dangers. This is called ‘second hand smoking’.
Therefore, it is quite evident that smoking is a serious problem India is facing today esp. the youth of India.
As mentioned earlier, females generally start smoking in their late teens. So, my campaign would be targeting the girls who are in the age group of 16-24 years.
Attitude towards Smoking
Young women who smoke experience very few noticeable side effects (well nothing serious enough to motivate quitting en masse), not only do they lack the motivation to quit; they are also extraordinarily adept at creating loopholes to escape antismoking messages directed at them.
An analysis of various research showed that the three main loopholes were:
Smoking is just one of the many risks in life
Young smokers make a distinction between immediate, ‘personal’ reasons for giving up and more remote, ‘official’ reasons such as long term health risks (e.g. lung cancer) which seem less relevant.
‘The risks of smoking are too far in the future to worry about now’
Young smokers have no meaningful sense of their own mortality and live very much in the here and now.
Antismoking messages are redundant ‘everybody knows smoking is bad for you’
To be effective, the antismoking message must feel like ‘new news’.
Planning the Anti-Smoking Campaigns
The planner had to infiltrate the world of the young female smoker to find a new angle, but how? We needed to work from the inside out, our starting point being our target, from its own point of view. We would find our target’s weak spot and then find a weapon to match a relevant short term negative effect of smoking that would hit them where it would have the most effect.
For several months, the planner would watch the target’s programmes and movies, read their magazines, frequented their hang out spots and shopped where they shopped. Part of this planner’s method research included teenwatching (i.e. observing and interacting with our target in its own environment, as one of them) in various McDonalds on Saturday afternoons.
Interviews with editors of leading young women’s magazines
An important and intimate relationship exists between young women’s magazines and their readers. These magazines act almost as ‘best friend’ and offer discussion and advice on everything from ‘what to wear’ and ‘how to pull’ to ‘body image’ and ’emotional problems’. For the lowdown on how to get even closer to our target, the planner would grill the editors of magazines with large (female) youth profiles.
Strategy positioning research
We need to find a credible, relevant and persuasive message that communicated a short term negative effect of smoking.
The key insight of our target’s weak spot
As a result of the above, three key points became clear:
There is no scope for even a hint of a prescriptive ‘just say no’ antismoking message.
This group, young women, will only respond to messages that offer (or seem to offer) them an informed choice. This is part of their assertion of independence and their rejection of anything that comes from people who patronise them and couldn’t possibly understand what it means to be them.
Appearance (and from this, positive self-esteem, boys, sex and peer group acceptance) is the key preoccupation
Young women are extremely concerned about their appearance (real and perceived). When it comes to their appearance (skincare, make up, clothes, hair etc ) this group seem to be trains potters of the first order. They are information hungry and, when reading their magazines, they are willing to plough through acres of pictures, diagrams and juicy detail to discover whats new and true in the world of skincare, hair care and overall image creation. Credible information learned here passes into the grapevine and can very quickly become received wisdom within the peer group.
Young women’s positive associations with smoking (aside from peer group acceptance) are mainly to do with appearance:
When you smoke you look ‘sophisticated’, ‘quietly confident’, ‘a bit sexy, alluring’ and ‘more like an adult’
The spectre of post quitting weight gain was, for many young women, seen as more relevant and immediate than cancer.
‘Cancer may happen in the future, you can’t see it but the weight you can see it now and you have to live with it’
We would have to talk to these girls about something that was genuinely important to them now (not just what we think should be important to them)…their looks.
An approach that exploits our target’s insecurities about their appearance, using the scientific ‘language of cosmetics’, could work…
Young female smokers believe that the short term negative effects on appearance caused by smoking is just not credible because, unsurprisingly, they could not see any adverse effects taking place now.
I propose a hypothesis that a credible but scary fact (‘smoking makes your skin thinner’ true but probably unusable because everyone in this rather small medical study was over 50 years old) would capture our target’s imagination and create a cause for concern where there previously was none (cf. messages from cosmetics manufacturers re: large pores, toxins in the skin, blackheads and sun cream).
Sure enough, many of the girls would take the skin thinness story. I believe girls would internalise the story and gave it their own meanings that were relevant to them now and that tapped into their own individual anxieties about the appearance of their skin.
There was a great deal of familiarity with a wide range of ‘scientific’ skincare terms (e.g. ‘antioxidants’, ‘aminoacids’, ‘toxins’ etc) which was not particularly surprising given this group’s obsession and information hunger with regards to appearance, in general, and skincare specifically. This is the ‘language of cosmetics’ that cosmetics manufacturers use to sell these girls more and more skin, hair and body products. Each new product requires its own story filled with ‘scientific’ language to lend it credibility.
Every cigarette contains 4000 toxins, many of which the blood stream carries straight into the structure of the skin.
The toxins in cigarette smoke cause the blood vessels in the top layers of the skin to constrict thus reducing the blood supply there.
It is the reduced blood supply which causes a reduction in the availability of oxygen (which is necessary for all living cells) and the removal of waste products, dead skin fragments, etc… which provides the necessary environment for skin regeneration.
This would be scary stuff to the average young woman who spends much of her time and money on a skincare regime worthy of Cleopatra herself (face packs, cleansing, exfoliating, toning and moisturising).
The creative brief
My proposition for the campaign is:
Every cigarette you smoke is having a detrimental effect on your looks now.
“Smoking makes younger you look older”
The picture above clearly captures the side effects of smoking on the beauty of a girl.
Creative Development research
Three key points relevant to the campaign are:
In order to attract the attention of our rather discriminating target, the visuals used had to be of intrinsic interest to them.
It is not enough to use long ‘scientific’ copy to imitate the ‘language of cosmetics’. In order to be relevant the copy should be succinct and, to create the same excitement that good cosmetics ads do, it must adopt the aspirational ‘Clinique’ approach of top skincare scientists at the cutting edge rather than that of an ordinary G.P., a grey, health expert.
A tone that is too ‘jokey’, ‘cleverclever’, discursive or ironic would undermine the credibility of the message.
Refining the creative work
We stuck with the idea and the creative team used the learnings from research to present our ‘story’ in a way that was a shorthand, communicating effectively in a language (the ‘language of cosmetics’) that our target understood immediately and was already highly responsive to:
Four single page print ads in the style of a high quality cosmetics ad campaign but with cigarettes and cigarette ash sullying typical skincare / cosmetic products (facepack, skin cream, translucent powder and a make up brush).1
The final media strategy
We worked extremely closely with our media team and when we saw the finished ads glossy, beautiful, instant fix we decided that not only were we going to use magazines, for the reasons outlined above, but we were also going to use posters in the London Underground because:
Although the Underground is not a ‘beauty environment’ per se, many cosmetics brands advertise there and so there was a natural fit with our ‘faux cosmetics’ campaign.
You can’t smoke on the tube and so cigarettes are often top of mind for many smokers when they travel on the Underground.
A ‘grim reality’ strategy of getting to our target when they are feeling lousy e.g. early in the morning.
Have we hit the mark?
Qualitative research commissioned by the HEA showed that by using the language of cosmetics, and also the glamour and simple gloss of the best cosmetics advertisements, the message was found to be believable and extremely relevant. These ads were found to be an appropriate counter to the ‘sophisticated’ image the tobacco industry and the movie / fashion world currently give cigarettes.
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Quantitative ad tracking showed a 20% increase in the number of 16 24 year olds who claim to have seen advertising with an antismoking message (excluding nicotine replacement treatments). 84% of the smokers that had seen the ads felt that they were aimed specifically at them and almost two thirds said that the ads had encouraged them to think about giving up. With these ads, we have achieved our goal of inspiring, in our target, the beginnings of meaningful motivation to quit through engendering a sense of identification, instilling a sense of urgency and blocking off escape routes.
Journalists too have followed our lead and magazines and newspapers now run stories about smoking affecting young girls looks (4000 toxins etc) as if it were received wisdom.2
The planner used her wits (and a bit of method in her madness) to find a way (literally) under the otherwise impenetrable skins of young women who smoke.
Planning contributed to highly successful creative work by:
Redefining the role for advertising
Using ‘method planning’, as a complement to conventional research, to find a critical new consumer insight which changed the way we positioned our antismoking message
Providing crucial ammunition for creatives by discovering certain key facts to create a new, relevant story about the effects of smoking
Using research to refine the creative work and to encourage intelligent media implementation
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