Most advertising is focused on encouraging consumers to buy products or services. But advertising can also be used to discourage the use of products considered to be harmful.


Most advertising is focused on encouraging consumers to buy products or services. But advertising can also be used to discourage the use of products considered to be harmful. One of the best examples of this is the use of advertising focused on discouraging smoking. Over many years, differ- ent types of ads have been used—informational, funny, and some designed to be very shocking—all focused on con- vincing smokers to kick the habit, or better, to never start it. Smoking is America’s leading preventable cause of death and illness, responsible for more than 480,000 deaths each year—about 1,300 deaths per day. Each year in the United States, more people die from smoking than from murder, suicide, AIDS, drugs, alcohol, and car crashes— combined. One would think that compelling statistics like these would scare anyone away from taking a single puff on a cigarette. However, the many factors involved in the deci- sion to start and to continue to smoke create the need for persuasive messaging involving more than just facts.

A form of this messaging began with the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act of 1965 that man- dated warnings be placed on each pack of cigarettes stating in clear terms: “Caution: Cigarette Smoking May Be Hazardous to Your Health.” Early anti-smoking ad campaigns began appearing around this time and were largely executed as pub- lic service announcements, free TV airtime mandated by the Federal Communications Commission. The ads focused on explaining the dangers of smoking and making it seem less socially acceptable to smoke. This advertising had some effectiveness, but had to compete for time on the air with other good causes such as preventing forest fires.

More recently, private anti-smoking groups began much more aggressive advertising. The Truth campaign focused on teens went nationwide in 2000. Recognizing that kids smoked because they wanted to rebel, they used that image to challenge young smokers with a question: “Are you really rebelling by giving all of your money to these big corpora- tions run by old white guys?”

The Centers for Disease Control decided on a different strategy, sponsoring ads that featured smokers who were experiencing the results of their habit. One shows a woman who has to speak with an artificial device because her voice box has been removed explaining that she misses singing lullabies to her grandson. Others feature people who have lost their teeth, a woman who had a premature baby, and a man with a hole in his throat—all results of smoking. Do these fear appeals work? The research says yes— at least for some. These types of appeals appear to be most effective with “prevention-focused” people who are con- cerned with possible negative outcomes. However, one experiment found that scary images had the opposite effect on some adolescents, making them more at risk for future smoking. It may be that they responded in a defensive man- ner that caused them to downplay the health risks portrayed in the graphic photographs.

In contrast to prevention-focused people, those who are “promotion-focused” are concerned with aspirations and achievements. A PSA released by Ireland’s government health service (and later used in New York) may be more ef- fective for this personality type. In this ad, people lip-synced to Gloria Gaynor’s anthem “I Will Survive,” as they decide to quit cigarettes. A campaign in Florida focused on the positives of quitting with the tagline, “Quit smoking and you quit all the crap that goes with it. You Quit. You Win.” Angela Rodriguez, VP of strategic planning and Insights at Alma, who produced the ads said, “We . . . learned that those same scare tactic ap- proaches don’t always connect, so we shifted our strategy to a more empathetic one . . . The result is [a] very emotive creative that is respectful of the smokers we are trying to reach.”

All of these approaches are having an effect, with the number of smokers in the United States at a new low of 16 percent, compared to 42 percent in the 1960s. Advertising cannot take all the credit; bans on smoking in public spaces, taxes on cigarettes, and extensive education and quit-smok- ing programs have all contributed. But the CDC credits ad campaigns with making a difference, including creating a spike in calls to its 1-800-QUIT-NOW hotline.

Whether selling cars or encouraging smokers to quit, advertisers have a number of persuasive approaches available for use. Considering the many factors involved in the decision to start or quit smoking, multiple ad ap- proaches will be needed to persuade someone to make a change. Just as with the marketing of products and ser- vices, our target markets are not always as homogeneous as they might appear, so different appeals will work with different sub segments. Choosing the right ones just may help someone avoid an early death due to cancer or heart disease.

a. What is another health, political, or philanthropic cause that could benefit from an advertising cam-paign? Create two taglines that could be used: one for people who are prevention-focused and another for those who are promotion-focused.

b. Health warnings have appeared on cigarette pack-ages for almost 50 years. Discuss how habituation (from Chapter 6) may be a factor affecting their effectiveness. In over 80 countries, graphic images related to smoking’s effects must also be shown on the packages. Why or why not might this help smokers decide to quit?

The post Most advertising is focused on encouraging consumers to buy products or services. But advertising can also be used to discourage the use of products considered to be harmful. appeared first on Versed Writers.

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