Tag Archives: anti-smoking

You need to say more than one thing to get people to change

Went to the IPA last night to hear a talk about the anti-smoking case study that’s been short-listed for the 2010 IPA Effectiveness Awards.  It was a panelist of the contributors and they started with a fact which determined the way they approached the whole campaign – that 76% of smokers need more than one reason to stop smoking.  So, given that advertising theory states that you should only have one message at a time, how can you give mulitple messages at the same time and hope that they’ll stick?

The answer was to involve various parties, all with an interest in people stopping smoking and all capable of coming at the problem from a different angle yet able to advertise in and around the same time.  Those parties were the British Heart Foundation (BHF), the NHS and the Cancer Research UK.  Each came at the problem from their distinct point of view and with a different tone of voice.  In combination, they created an ‘additive and complementary effect’.

There were another couple of points that were interesting too.  Anti-smoking legislation (e.g. no smoking in public places) and taxation (now over £6 a pack) obviously work, but its advertising that provides the emotional prompts that work with these things. 

Smoking is irrational, because rationally, you know it’ll kill you.  So, you shouldn’t use rational advertising – you need stories told with emotion as they will ‘work harder and last longer’.

So, what does this mean from a sustainability point of view?  It seems that the anti-smoking lobby have moved from one message to change one behaviour to mulitple-messages to change one behaviour.  However, when it comes to sustainability, there are multiple behaviours to change.   What to do?  One suggestion the panel had was to wrap different behaviours into one campaign – apparently the ‘Change4Life’ campaign contains 8 messages.  However, I’m not sure that this is the best way – with ‘Change4Life’, the messages seem to get lost as they are not individually distinctive enough in the same way that the anti-smoking messages were that were covered here.  On this, I can see the benefit of using advertising as it can use emotion to reverse irrational behaviour, but who would pay for those multiple messages, productions and airtime?  The government is cutting spending, and there don’t seem to be as many charities that are focussed on this issue as they’re are with anti-smokng to pick up the tab (WWF? Oxfam? Carbon Trust?  Maybe)

Anyway, it was an interesting talk and here’s the link to the 20 min video they made to talk about the case study.

And here are some of the ads:

British Heart Foundation ‘Fatty Cigarettes’:

NHS testimonal (there’s loads of these):

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Stopping Smoking is Easier than Stopping Shopping

As part of the MSc, I think it’s going to be useful looking at different government campagins to encourage the public to change certain behaviours.  They include:

Stop smoking

Wear seatbelts

Anti-drink driving


Turn heating down

If you take Stop Smoking, which is probably the one which will have the most written about, it’ll become apparent how difficult it is to get people to stop and yet people know that they will die.  So, you’d think that getting people to buy less will be easy.  But I don’t think it will be.  Anyway, here’s a bunch of anti-smoking ads.  The interesting thing is that:

a) the all kind of look and feel the same

b) they look like they’ve been created to win awards, not to stop people smoking

c) why are they using posters?  How can a simple poster message be expected to stop an addiction?

Anyway, here they are for reference:

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Getting people to do what they don’t want to do

The Big Issue with trying to get people to buy less is ‘Why would you want to stop doing something that you like?’

Shopping is great.  It’s a fun, social activity.  What you buy makes you happy because you buy the latest


So, getting people to do less of this is going to be difficult.  However, things can be easier if people believe that the benefit of not buying things is greater than the benefit of buying things.  And there are many reasons which could be used – not causing climate change, protecting the planet for future generations, saving money, being a canny shopper.  These are all valid, but none of them are interesting.  They are all about ‘not’, because fundamentally, buying less is about ‘not’, which runs against the culture  which is all about ‘yes’.   There’s no big idea in here that I want to sign up to.  If you think about consumerism, it’s linked to the post-WW2 imperative for economic growth.  One caused the other.  We need to grow, so you buy stuff because that stimulates growth.  We get more stuff and the economy gets bigger.  Buying and having things is linked to the success of the country and buying and having more things feels good. What’s not to like about that?

We are now trying to reverse the spiral.  The Climate Change Agenda (which trumps the  Economic Imperative) states that we have to consume less.  In order to do this, you have to make buying less and having less feel better than buying and having more.  This is a massive volte face and will take years to turn around. 

It’s interesting to look at other parallels to understand how this has been done before.  Two examples are anti-smoking and wearing seatbelts.


With these two examples, we know that smoking or not wearing your seatbelt has a significant personal downside risk.  You can die a slow and painful death from cancer or be flung through the windscreen.  For a start, there no significant downside risk to not shopping, unless you get very literal about ‘I’m going to die if I can’t buy that pair of shoes”.

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