The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Fear Inflation …
July 15, 2013, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

Yes I’m back.

No, it wasn’t a holiday like you all think it was.

Can we all just move on? Please?


So a few weeks ago, when I was in Australia, I was in a cab when I saw this:

As you can tell from the photo, I was in a cab so I only saw it for a few seconds, but I was surprised to learn that it was actually an ad for quitting smoking than quitting drugs.

Of course, both are filthy, dangerous habits … but the headline, the picture of a sweating man with a pained impression on his face, the overall bleakness of the ad made it feel it was far more about heroin usage rather than cigarettes.

Now I appreciate that some people view smoking as being ‘less dangerous’ than hard drugs and that by creating an ad that communicates it in the same way, they might be helping reframe people’s opinion but I still think it’s wrong.

We see so many ads these days that we self filter.

It’s as if our brain has developed an internal firewall to ignore the things we don’t relate to.

For some brands/agencies, they think that means they have to be more and more extreme to ‘cut through’ and while there is an argument for that, I believe brands just have to be more and more relevant to the audience they’re targeting.

Know them.

Understand them.

Play in their World.

Speak ‘to’ rather than ‘at’ them.

Ads like the one above seem to be doing none of that … it feels its goal is to communicate what the Government want to say rather than what might actually connect with people who want to stop but don’t know how to.

In fact, I’d argue that the ad might actually be being more effective at grabbing the attention of drug addicts than cigarette smokers. Or at least the cliche definition of what a drug addict looks like.

Now I know what some of you might be thinking …

Given I noticed this poster and yet have never taken a drug or had a cigarette in my life [I know I look like a alcoholic, 40-a-day, coke-snorter, but I’m not] I’m sort of undermining my own argument … and that’s a very good point … however I’d say that while there are occasions when people need to be ‘shocked’ out of their mindset, where cigarettes and drugs are concerned, this ‘fear inflation’ might not be the best strategy for substance abuse because after years of slowing turning up the ‘shock heat’ on these people, they’ve been ‘trained’ to either ignore the ads or ignore the shock tactics.

By the way, if any government out there needs a campaign to try and stop drug abuse, get in touch because I have an awesome one that the Australian Government were too frightened to use in 2003. Which is kind-of ironic, given it’s using comedy and music rather than fear.

And yes, I do realise how utterly futile typing that last sentence was, thank you very much.

30 Comments so far
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If old habits die slowly, isn’t that a good thing?

Comment by Billy Whizz

That explains why I still have my music & fashion issues.

Comment by Rob

You’re the roughest clean living man I know. You’re an ad for smoking, boozing and toking.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Isn’t that the campaign Rob wants to flog to a government?

Comment by DH

Sort-of. You remembered Dave … I’m impressed. I’m also slightly concerned that you have nothing better to fill your mind with after 10 years.

Comment by Rob

Another ad talking to people about what they ought to do rather than helping them to want to do it.

As for your noticing it. The fact that you noticed an ad proves nothing other than the fact that your “working life” prompts you and all marketing people to notice it in a different way from regular people.

Comment by John

You’ve just upset millions of marketing people by associating then with Rob.

Comment by DH

Unsubscribe please

Comment by Jennie Crosby Denny

Unsubscribe? Who subscribes to this in the first place?

Comment by DH

Hello Jennie … you’re more than welcome to unsubscribe, but to be honest, I don’t know how you subscribe in the first place.

Comment by Rob

Welcome back Rob.

How did your bootcamp training go last week? Did your team win?

Good post. I agree with John when he says the fundamental error with this ad is that it is telling people what Quitline wants them to do rather than helping them do it. In my experience, people know these activities are bad for them but they can’t stop because it’s an addiction. Making people feel worse about something they already know is bad doesn’t seem that smart of a strategy.

Encouraging people to not start or help people stop would make sense. Abusing them with these sorts of posters doesn’t, unless the goal is to appear you care about these issues when really you don’t.

Comment by Pete

I’ll just pop my cynic’s hat on: It’s not targeted to stop people smoking. It’s designed to make it *look like* the government is doing something about smoking to non-smokers. Effective anti-smoking ads would have a devastating effect on tax revenues and also election campaign contributions from the “consumer packaged goods” companies.

Comment by Shackleford Hurtmore

That’s what I was trying to say with my last sentence but you said it much more clearly and pointedly.

Comment by Pete

While the cigarette tax produces billions of dollars for governments, the tobacco company lobbyists will continue to have a relatively easy job.

Comment by George

Bang on Shackleford … it’s the great fear inflation conspiracy. Look like you care while you take in the cash.

Comment by Rob

Like the Singapore Government. Look like you’re a democracy while you behave like a dictatorship.

Comment by Rob

Harsh but fair Robert. Harsh but fair.

Comment by George

thats another country thats going to blacklist you campbell. at this rate youre going to have to blag a seat on galactic because therell be no fucker on earth thatll have you. on the bright side, your loss will be civilsations gain so keep going with whatever the fuck it is you do.

Comment by andy@cynic

The Julian Assange of advertising

Comment by northern

more like the julian fucking clarey.

Comment by andy@cynic

has ben elton taken over this blog and writing his mid 80s political shit?

Comment by andy@cynic

You’re surprised this blog feels like it comes from the 80’s? After 6 years? Fatherhood has changed you. Ha.

Comment by Rob

The last line of the ad, “stop before the suffering starts” is inherently flawed given people always think they can do that. If anything, shouldn’t they be saying, “we can help you”?

Comment by Bazza

Good point. But as people on here are saying, the purpose of this ad might not be to stop people from smoking, but to look like they are trying to make people stop smoking.

Basically, effectiveness is making an ineffective ad.

Comment by Rob

You should be writing “news” stories for Fox.

Comment by Bazza

The trick to quitting is really wanting to quit. If you don’t really want to quit, you will not. No matter how many scare tactics are out there. Smoking is almost a lifestyle. It’s interwoven into people’s lives. Shallow scare tactics that tell people what they already know aren’t likely to convince them to change how they live. But I guess it makes society feel good to make those sorts of ads.

Comment by kevin

Let’s be honest, if the government wanted to really help people stop smoking they could do it in more powerful ways than doing these ads. But then if they stopped people smoking – as Shackleford said – they’d have a massive hole in their budget that they couldn’t spend on their military.

Oh who am I kidding, the military will always get the cash, the fag money probably funds pensions and education and then we’d all suffer even more. Possibly.

Comment by Rob

All good points
I always liked the Truth campaign Crispin Porter did, in terms of ‘wanting to quit’

Comment by northern

When a smoker runs into another anti-smoking ad, often the reaction is – “yes maybe it is cool, but it won’t make me quit – it’s a waste of time and money”. Well of course, one single ad won’t change your mind in a second, but it does create the awareness that smoking is a BAD thing, and when a message is being repeated over an over again – it finds its place somewhere deep inside your unconscious mind.

Comment by Jamie X. Glenn

But don’t you think people know smoking is bad for them already? Surely that isn’t the issue, having constructive help to stop is what’s needed.

Comment by Rob

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