Sunday, March 08, 2009

Stating the obvious doesn't seem to work

I haven't smoked for many years and so I haven't even seen a cigarette pack in a long time. This one was lying by the path the dogs and I were walking on and I noticed that the warning on the front was a lot longer than it used to be. The statistics are pretty startling. In case you can't read it on the small photo (click on the pic to see a larger version) here's what it says:
Warning: Each year, the equivalent of a small city dies from tobacco use.

Estimated Deaths in Canada, 1996
Murders - 510
Alcohol - 1,900
Car accidents - 2,900
Suicides - 3,900
Tobacco - 45,000
That's a lot of people that die from cigarettes. But do smokers really understand what kind of risk they're running? Funny how people will buy a lottery ticket (which they have virtually no chance of winning) but they don't think that they're going to get sick from smoking.

We've had these warnings for a long time but have they really done much to decrease smoking? It seems more plausible that they make people who are opposed to smoking feel better and that smokers just don't pay attention. They know its bad but so what?


Jason said...

There is no doubt in my mind that these warnings are not seen by those who smoke regularly. Like any type of advertising, people will develop blind spots and not see them after a while.

Instead of a negative ad, what about using that space on the packet to promote a positive ad. huh? Allow me to explain.

Why not use that space as a direct-response marketing piece leading people to a solution?

What if the packages said:

Example #1

Are YOU Tired of Smoking Outside in the Rain? Learn the 7 Secrets of Quiting smoking at

Example #2

Are YOU Tired of high cigarette Prices? Learn how you can quit smoking in 24 hours at

The result is the same (encouraging people to quit), but the approach is different. The current ads are meant to inform, but if information was enough to lead people away from smoking, many people would have quit do to the ads. But the reality is people who smoke know the they are bad for them, and really don't care to be so blunt. But, all smokers do face similar challenges: having to smoke outside in the rain, cold. Many are no longer able to smoke inside public places. What about smoke odor? yellow fingers? feeling winded? These are all common problems to smokers... and if a properly positioned solution could be targeted to them... not only would ad blindness be reduced, many people may actually go one step further and try to quit.

Dave said...

Good points Jason. I agree that the negative ads don't work. These sound like good ideas. How do you suppose you could get a dialogue gong with Health Canada (or whoever regulates these things) to see about taking a new approach to this campaign? I could see this applying to other public health messages too. Positive messages seem like a good idea.