Leave it to Thailand to completely school us fancy-pants Americans on anti-smoking advertising efforts. For decades, we in the world of visual shock and awe have been shoving diseased lungs, amputees, and people with holes in their throats at smokers to try to gross them out or scare them into quitting. We use guilt, shame, and disgust, with some success, to encourage people to quit and discourage people from starting.
Personally, I find the guilt/shame/disgust tactics too polarizing. Guilt and shame are powerful tools to use, as are shocking images like clogged arteries and diseased organs. Done really well, that kind of work can win you awards (see the “truth” campaign). But what that work tends to do, at least to some, is make those who don’t smoke feel really good about not smoking, and make those who do smoke feel like giant piles of excrement for smoking, Interestingly enough, that self-loathing can induce smokers to light up to relieve that feeling of stress and guilt, creating a spiral of increased tobacco use. And in the same way Pizza Hut ads might induce you to crave a pizza, anti-smoking ads have also triggered the desire for a cigarette in some smokers.
So, what to do? I tend to like positive messaging. Our industry cohorts in Thailand took a different approach.
Simple. Provocative. Brilliant. Some of those guilt and shame tactics, but done tastefully to encourage people to flip the script and think of themselves as the same kid asking for a light. It’s an original approach to get smokers to ask themselves the age-old question: Is smoking really worth what it does to my body?