First National Quit Smoking Campaign Readies Launch

This week the American Legacy Foundation (ALF) and the National Alliance for Tobacco Cessation (NATC)--a group comprising state departments of health and private organizations--are launching a first-ever national advertising, PR, grassroots campaign aimed at getting people to quit smoking.

The $25-30-million campaign, "EX," aims at getting smokers to break the link between cigarettes and the daily rituals, habits and triggers that make one want to light up. It also aims to educate smokers about medications that can help, and directs them to join support groups.

The Legacy Foundation, which last year tested the program in four markets, helped organize the NATC by bringing together 14 states and 8 national organizations, including the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association and the National Cancer Institute.

The campaign, via Austin, Texas-based GSD&M, comprises television, radio and online ads and out-of-home promotions. Three TV spots each show someone trying to figure out how to do something without reaching for a cigarette. One shows a guy trying to drink a cup of coffee at a diner. He tries in various desperate ways to drink the coffee, but can't figure out how. Voiceover: "When you're used to always doing something with a cigarette, it can be hard to do something without one. But if you can relearn how to drink coffee without cigarettes, you can relearn to do anything without cigarettes."



Another of the ads has a person trying to drive without a smoke in hand. The third deals with starting one's day without the benefit of a light-up. New York City-based PHD handled media planning and buying strategy for the campaign.

"What we are trying to do with EX is offer smokers a comprehensive plan to quit, focusing on ritualistic, behavioral and habit elements of smoking," says Jeffrey Costantino, director of cessation marketing for ALF.

He says the media push includes ABC daytime, late-night, ABC news, ESPN lifetime, Soapnet, as well as other networks like Fox News, CNN and A&E.

There's also a grassroots element, an "EX Coffee Truck" that will visit various alliance-state markets handing out free coffee and how-to-quit information.

Costantino says that the creative voice in the ads, in the text and online is intended to be in the voice of an ex smoker. "It's smoker-to-smoker communication. We did a lot of research beforehand, so a lot of insights in the copy are from actual smokers. It speaks to smokers in their own language."

The site lets smokers develop a personalized quitting plan, has video testimonials, and a virtual support group/community, and links to quit-smoking Web sites of member states.

The American Legacy Foundation has troubling numbers on quitting: Although 70% want to quit, only 5% of people who quit in 2000 are still off cigarettes. Next to driving, tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. "It's a huge problem," he says, explaining that the Legacy Foundation's "truth" campaign is a prevention message focused on getting young people never to start smoking. EX is for people who are smoking now and struggling to quit.

There has not been a sustained public-health voice in quitting smoking in national media for a while. The best known is Philip Morris' Quit-Assist. And a lot of consumers are wary of it because it comes from a major tobacco company.

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