Editorial: Gruesome ads that work
04/11/2013 - The New York Times
NEW YORK -
There is limited value in telling smokers that their deadly habit may kill them. They already know that, yet most ignore the warnings. But showing smokers gruesome images of people who have been maimed or disfigured by tobacco seems to have a much bigger effect.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is starting the second round of an advertising campaign featuring images like a throat cancer survivor who rasps out her words through a small speaker in a hole in her neck. The campaign will run on television, radio, digital sites and in print through the end of June. The advertisements are expected to be seen at least once a week by 85 percent of all smokers.
The first round of advertising, which ran for 12 weeks last year, energized large numbers of people to try quitting. The national hot line posted in the ads, which directs callers to information and trained counselors who can develop a personalized plan for quitting, received about 365,000 calls, more than twice the total in the same period the year before. A smoking cessation Web site got 630,000 unique visits, five times the number the year before. An estimated 20 percent of the people who call quit lines are successful in quitting for good.
A more permanent tactic would be to place graphic images on cigarette packages. But that approach, strongly pushed by the Food and Drug Administration, ran into legal challenges by cigarette manufacturers.
This year’s advertising campaign will cost $48 million, a small but important counterweight to the industry’s marketing juggernaut.