In 2012, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launched the first-ever paid national tobacco education campaign named ‘Tips From Former Smokers’ (Tips) (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2018). The advertisements contained and profiled real people, showcasing graphic imagery which illustrated the life-long consequences of smoking. The top-down approach aimed to create awareness of the health issues associated with smoking, with the main motive of encouraging individuals to quit and refrain from smoking around others (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2018). The numerous videos apart of the campaign all implement a variety of different, yet effective design approaches. ‘Terrie’s Story’, one of the first videos to kick-start the campaign, is just one of many successful infomercials included in the expedition.
‘Terrie’s Story’ advantageously implements shock value and fear to play on people’s emotions (Skubisz 2016). The audience is introduced to a beautiful, young version of Terrie, suddenly contrasted with a worn and ill Terrie. The abrupt juxtaposition between the two frames shocks viewers, further instilling fear as Terrie continues to talk about the life-long consequences she suffers as a result. Terrie’s outcome makes viewers feel “susceptible” to her consequences, therefore motivating one to quit to remove the shock or fear felt (Skubisz 2016). The approach ultimately “elicit[s] a particular emotion” in hopes of provoking “a related motivational action tendency” (Skubisz 2016). Research validates the success of this particular method, Truth Initiative stating: “Tips has motivated more than 5 million smokers to attempt to quit, and an estimated 500,000 of those smokers have quit for good” (Truth Initiative 2017), whilst an evaluation of the campaign by Alice Miller reads “we found evidence of its continued and significant impact on cessation-related behaviours…[and] these campaigns continue to have… impact, even after multiyear implementations” (Neff 2016). In addition, CDC asserts: “Smokers who have seen ‘Tips’ ads report greater intentions to quit,” with those who have seen the ads multiple times having “even greater intentions” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2018). While intentions are a great starting point, is this enough? Other sources disagree, challenging the ‘negative impact’ approach.
Numerous campaigns, similar to ‘Tips,’ implement negative, fearful and shock value methods. However, the research argues the importance and effectiveness of a positive and encouraging approach. Gareth Iacobucci in ‘New anti-smoking campaign adopts shock tatics’ states: “Public experts said the shock tactics will benefit some more than others and called for other initiatives… Positive images of non-smoking… are needed” (Iacobucci 2012). He argues: “many believe wrongly that the harm is already done” or they believe “the health risks associated with smoking are greatly exaggerated” (Iacobucci 2012). Another source claims: “positive campaigns were most effective at increasing quit-line calls,” while harmful emotive content only proves useful if exposed to at higher levels (Richardson 2014).
Research outlines the effectiveness of ‘Tips,’ and the ways in which it has provoked viewers to quit smoking. On the contrary, however, its success could be questioned, one arguing its failure to cater for those who would benefit from a positive approach.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2018, About the Campaign, United States, viewed 14 January 2019 <https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/about/index.html>.
Iacobucci, G. 2012, ‘New anti-smoking campaign adopts shock tactics’, BMJ : British Medical Journal (Online), vol. 345, viewed 14 January 2019, <https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.uts.edu.au/docview/1945326293/fulltext/B38B04241EF54338PQ/1?accountid=17095>.
Neff, LJ. et al. 2016, ‘Evaluation of the National Tips From Former Smokers Campaign’, Preventing chronic disease, vol. 13, viewed 14 January 2019, <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4807436/>
Richardson, S. et al. 2014, ‘How does the emotive content of televised anti-smoking mass media campaigns influence monthly calls to the NHS Stop Smoking helpline?’, Preventive Medicine, Vol. 69, viewed 14 January 2019, <https://www-sciencedirect-com.ezproxy.lib.uts.edu.au/science/article/pii/S0091743514003211>.
Skubisz, C. et al. 2016, ‘Tips from Former Smokers: A Content Analysis of Persuasive Message Features’, International Quarterly of Community Health Education, vol. 1, viewed 14 January 2019, <https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0272684X16685253#articleCitationDownloadContainer>.
Truth Initiative 2017, CDC’s anti-smoking ad campaign returns for sixth year, United States, viewed 14 January 2019, <https://truthinitiative.org/news/cdcs-anti-smoking-ad-campaign-returns-sixth-year>.