By Catherine Nguyen
Truth campaign (YouWorkForThem 2015)
Oftentimes, the anti-smoking advertisements we encounter on television are the ones who have been ‘thoughtfully’ decisive on our behalf, pushing heavily for us to ‘just say no’ because smoking is bad. Smoking is bad. It’s a well-known fact. But in order to work towards solving an issue, we need to directly address it from its roots, rather than working from its ends. We need to know about its origins, about the industry behind this dirty, deadly trade.
‘truth’ is a tobacco countermarking campaign which has claimed success in preventing and educating youths about the ‘big tobacco’s lies and manipulation’ (Truth, n.d.). Their target audience is primarily focused upon the vulnerable age group of 12-17 year olds, in which they promote their content through ‘edgy TV advertisements, radio advertisements, social media as well as hosting annual tours (Allen et al. 2010). Initially created in 1998 to campaign in Florida, its proven success had led to its development on a nationwide scale in 2000, by the American Legacy Foundation (Niederdeppe et al. 2004).
Whilst ‘truth’ seeks to reveal the honest facts surrounding the addictiveness, number of deaths and diseases attributed to smoking, its harmful ingredients and the industry’s deceptive marketing strategies utilising ‘fast paced’ and ‘hard edged’ communicative techniques, (Allen et al. 2010) they refuse to enforce and preach their opinions decisions on the viewer. Instead, it is up to the youths to understand, learn and ultimately make their own right choice. The campaign also features youth spokespeople who relate to the stereotypical image of a smoker: rebellious, independent and risk taking, in attempt to change the norms about not smoking.
One of truth's short films, warning about the dangers of smoking (truthorange 2017)
With their intended market to be targeted towards youths, their method of conveying the ‘truths’ in a more digestible, quirky and humorous manner can be understood as an effective method to capture attention whilst simultaneously communicating the knowledge that is carefully designed to influence beliefs and attitudes about tobacco.
Their ability to create a variety of ‘turbo charging’ content to appeal to different ‘sub-groups’ under the youth umbrella is certainly a powerful and successful game plan, with studies and surveys conducted along the path of truth’s journey revealing the increase in youth awareness and decline in youth addiction. A 2002 study revealed that within the first 9 months of the introduction of the campaign, 75% of the 12-17 age group nationwide were able to accurately describe at least 1 truth ad. Although its regular exposure had been proven to reach their intended group, by 2007, it was revealed that 70% of the ‘truth’ media purchase was moved from networked television to the cable alternate (Allen et al. 2010). This was primarily attributed to the reduction of funds from the MSA, which were their main source of finance- and although this transition may have been more cost effective method, it also meant that youths based in rural areas were unable to access this content. However, to combat this issue they decided to reach out further, by utilising the ever-growing social media as a platform to showcase their content. Their short videos which range from 30 to 60 seconds on average are posted regularly on their YouTube channel and range from dynamic, flat graphic styles to a more cartoon-based, or even cinematic approach.
Since 2000, the number of teens smoking have decreased drastically over the years, from 23% to 6% respectively (Truth, n.d.). Although these statistics cannot be entirely accredited to ‘truth’, their role in the anti-tobacco campaigning sector is undoubtedly applaudable. Their success is said to be as a result of 3 key characteristics: their peer to peer message strategy, the use of branding well as their consistent anti-tobacco theme (Allen et al. 2010). But it doesn’t stop here- they are yet to do what ‘no generation has ever done before- end smoking’ (Truth,n.d.).
Allen, J.A., Vallone, D., Vargyas, E. & Healton, C.G. 2010, ‘The truth Campaign: Using Countermarketing to Reduce Youth Smoking’, in B.J. Healey & R.S. Zimmerman (eds), The New World of Health Promotion, Jones and Bartlett Publishers, Sudbury, Massachusetts, pp. 195-215.
Niederdeppe, J., Farrelly, M.C. & Haviland, M.L. 2004, ‘Confirming truth: More Evidence of a Successful Tobacco Countermarketing Campaign in Florida’, American Journal of Public Health, vol. 94, no. 2, pp. 255-257.
Partnership For A Tobacco-Free Maine 2017, Marketing Against Tobacco, Maine Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, viewed 10 December 2017, <http://www.tobaccofreemaine.org/train_take_action/index.php>.
Sly, D.F., Heald, G.R. & Ray, S. 2001, ‘The Florida “truth” anti-tobacco media evaluation: design, first year results, and implications for planning future state media evaluations’, Tobacco Control, vol. 10, pp.9-15.
The Ministry of Ins!ghts n.d., TRUTH- anti-tobacco campaign, viewed 11 December 2017, <https://ministryofinsights.wordpress.com/informer/truth/>.
Truth n.d., truth- #FinishIt, viewed 10 December 2017, <http://www.lib.uts.edu.au/sites/default/files/attachments/page/InteractiveHarvardUTSGuide.pdf?>.
Truthorange 2017, Meet the Tastebuds | Cola | truth, video recording, YouTube, viewed 10 December 2017, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BPPRb29PibE>.
YouWorkForThem 2015, The Anti-Smoking Font – truth, viewed 11 December 2017, <http://blog.youworkforthem.com/2015/11/19/anti-smoking-font/>.