New Anti-Smoking Ads Turn Marketing On Its Ear

The American Legacy Foundation (ALF), an anti-smoking fund funded by tobacco companies following a late-1990s settlement agreement, is launching a new campaign in its eight-year-old "Truth" campaign aimed at keeping kids away from cigarettes. The effort, launching this week, comprises TV ads, an Interactive campaign and a summer tour.

It is also the last "Truth" campaign in which both Arnold Worldwide and Crispin Porter + Bogusky (the latter is departing the campaign) participated. The campaign aims to alert teens and twenty-somethings to the dangers of smoking without sounding like their parents.

The new push, "The Sunny Side of Truth," is a tongue-in-cheek effort that matches Broadway-style music and lyrics in ads--some of which are animated--with a satirical spotlight on marketing practices by tobacco companies.

Actually, the musical-theater tone is not happenstance: the music is by David Yazbek, who wrote Broadway shows "The Full Monty" and "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels."



The five TV spots initially follow a motif that "Truth" has used in documentary-style ads in the past, with young people gathering in places like the edifice of a tobacco-industry headquarters. But suddenly the group breaks into song and dance when they realize the "sunny side" of smoking and Big Tobacco tactics.

In one, teenagers in front of a tobacco company HQ are unrolling a banner with "Tobacco-Related Deaths" written on it. One says: "Wait until we show tobacco executives the 5 million people around the world who died from their products last year."

Another responds that he's being, perhaps, a bit negative, suggesting that the 5 million statistic is actually a typo. Then, animated typewriters and accessories accompany the teens in a song and dance about how the statistics are the result of a clerical error.

In another spot, teen protesters are setting traps in a NYC park using cigarette packs as bait to demonstrate how Big Tobacco has manipulated levels of nicotine in cigarettes to keep people addicted, but not enough to make them sick. As he speaks to passersby through a megaphone, suddenly a unicorn and other fantastical creatures appear to launch into a musical number about "the magical amount," which explains in saccharine tones why it is so wonderful that the tobacco companies are so precisely regulating nicotine dosage.

The TV elements will be supported by an interactive campaign comprising a Web site and a campaign on social-networking Web sites like MySpace, Facebook, Bebo, Hi-5 and Xanga. There will be Web-based games, like one modeled on "Guitar Hero," called "Key-Tar Slayer," where participants can jam to the music in the TV ads."

Another element called "The Useful Cigarette" shows how ingredients in cigarettes and cigarette smoke are found in things like toilet bowl cleaner, nail polish remover and rocket fuel.

Patricia McLaughlin, senior spokesperson at the ALF, says the music theme is central to the effort. "We are trying to use music as an asset across media."

She says the campaign also marks the first time that ALF has used animation in ads. "It's designed to be over the top." She says the TV spots will air on cable channels like MTV, VH1, Fuse, and ABC family.

She adds that the effort will include advertising in cinemas in April and September. The ads will be in 2,065 Screenvision theatres nationwide. Later in the summer, there will also be radio ads. "The target is 12 to 17 year olds," she says. "We are going for edgy kids--those likely to rebel with sensation-seeking behavior."

The effort will also include a summer grassroots tour. The Truth Truck will have music-themed events at such venues as the Vans Warped Tour.

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