The American Legacy Foundation's (ALF) nine-year-old "truth" campaign wants to help Big Tobacco hire new "Big C" Suite executives. The youth smoking prevention campaign, known for guerrilla theatre and dark parodies of the tobacco industry, is launching a new effort, "Do You Have What It Takes," that mimics job-recruitment interviews.
The campaign -- comprising television, print, cinema and online advertisements, social networking and a new Web site -- plays on the idea that even in the recession, there's always employment at the cigarette factory.
The campaign -- timed with the "truth" campaign's annual summer grassroots tour, which hits over 30 states and starts late June -- will run from June through early 2010, with a hiatus from November to January.
Three TV spots are based on real videos taken in a mock recruiting office for tobacco companies in New York City. The interviews are with real job seekers interviewed for executive-level positions, with actors posing as interviewers.
The TV spots show how interviewees react to such questions as whether they had a problem with selling a product that kills 1,200 people every day or one person every 6.5 seconds; whether they thought changing the name of the company was a reasonable way to avoid bad publicity; and if they could "plead the Fifth." The interviewer then informs the job candidate that a tobacco industry executive pled the Fifth Amendment 97 times during a deposition in 1997.
One spot has the interviewer impressing the candidate with his description of a potential opening for a job in a successful industry that spends $13 billion in the United States alone on marketing a year. He then goes on to say that worldwide, the industry's products kill 5 million people annually. The interviewer describes the great benefits package, but is interrupted by the candidate: "You snuck in, 'It kills people'; I heard that."
Each spot ends with the campaign's central question: "Do you have what it takes to be a tobacco executive?"
Eric Asche, SVP Marketing at ALF, says the cinema verite approach is what "truth" has done along with street theatre campaigns and guerrilla marketing activities. "It's so much better than anything we could possibly script because it's genuine; you can't replicate the shock people have when they learn the facts."
He says that the campaign ran online ads for recruitment, invited some 40 people in, and used multiple hidden cameras to capture the conversations. Only afterward did the invitees learn the truth. "And," says Asche, "afterward we had a real recruiter on hand to help them with job placement." He says that of the 16 interviews shot, six will air and the rest will run online, including out-takes.
One ad will run in Screenvision theatres and in cinemas in 38 regional markets before teen-focused films, with a twist: the audience can use SMS messages to interact with the ad. Asche says interactivity is key in all elements of the campaign. "That's the whole idea," he says. "It's hard to get teens to pay attention for a nanosecond, but when we presented it to teens in focus groups they actually stopped; they were processing what they would do in that situation. We want to replicate that model wherever we can."
The truth.com Web site will have a video "recruiter" asking site visitors multiple-choice questions. As the user interacts with the questions, online games and videos, the Web site keeps track of the user's score to encourage visitors to retry games, or retake tests to top their old score. At the conclusion, the recruiter comments on the performance, assessing whether the user "has what it takes" to work for Big Tobacco.
Two other spots will break on Monday on channels like MTV, G4, VH1 and Fuse, and other youth-centric channels.
Print ads ask show laboratory jars containing organs and body parts, with labels like: "The stones to say that cigarettes are only as addictive as sugar, salt and Internet access." They will run in books like Alternative Press, TransWorld Snowboarder & Skateboarder and Rides.
The digital elements include banners and social media elements on MySpace, Facebook, Bebo, Hi-5 and imeem.com including a "poll widget" that includes questions that were conducted during the online interview process for the television spots.