Osocio NL

If you could see the damage, you’d stop

Posted by Tom Megginson | 2-01-2013 15:55 | Category: Drugs

UK Department of Health: Smoking harms

From the UK Department of Health comes the year’s first shock campaign. In it, a man sucks on his smoke as a cancerous tumour grows on it.


Copyranter writes, “The Department says they developed the shockvertising because their research shows that more than a third of smokers still believe that the health risks associated with smoking are ‘greatly exaggerated’.”

And that’s what gives me pause. The voiceover is actually quite straightforward and rational, quantifying the harm that each cigarette does. But then the shock visual makes the same mistake of “greatly exaggerating” the harm. It’s a concept, sure, and not to be taken literally. But I don’t think it will help the message be more effective.

Smokers know that their habit is harming their health, and many continue anyway. The reason the feel that the risks are exaggerated is precisely because anti-smoking campaigns use so much shock and gore to try to scare them straight. Smokers just learn to tune it out.

Everyone I have known who quit did so because they wanted to, not because someone else told them they should. I’d like to see more anti-smoking ads that speak to smokers with empathy towards their addiction. Smoking provides them pleasure and comfort. But the use of the drug can also take away everything they hold dear. This Brazilian campaign handled the balance quite well.

Department of Health (United Kingdom)
Dare, London


Comments about If you could see the damage, you'd stop

I saw this on TV for the first time a couple of nights ago.

Different approach, same tactic.  And not too far removed in style from the lip/fish-hooks one.

Will it work?  Don’t know.

But I do know what I’ve never seen tried - positive reinforcement of the benefits of quitting.  Running up mountains, a dirty weekend in a city of your choosing.  You know, all the health and financial benefits repurposed.

Would that work better?  Maybe. 

But for the moment, it’s largely the same old same, just a bit repackaged.

Posted by Neil Hopkins | 2-01-2013 17:00

My comment


Your comment will not be visible until a moderator approves it.

Some rights reserved 2005-2013 Osocio/Houtlust.
Disclaimer. Terms of use. Privacy statement.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Support us

Do you like our blog? Support us with a donation.
We're non-commercial. We all make Osocio pro bono in our spare time and we can use some support.

image of a graduation cap

Recent in Academy

Branding a time-bound campaign, Forest & Bird did it.

It’s not new but it is not often used: branding for a time-bound campaign. The kind of branding used for temporary purpose. Forest & Bird did it recently for their Love Nature: Vote 2014 campaign. New Zealand’s largest independent conservation organisation wanted nature back on the political agenda. The future…
Read more

Can fundraising marketers recreate the #icebucketchallenge?

Yesterday, it finally happened. Somebody challenged me to the Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS. If your internet connection has been broken all summer, it’s this year’s big meme. You can read about it here. To be honest, I felt that the movement had passed its high-water mark when I saw…
Read more

About Osocio

Osocio is dedicated to social advertising and non-profit campaigns. It’s the place where marketing and activism collide. Formerly known as the Houtlust Blog, Osocio is the central online hub for advertisers, ad agencies, grassroots, activists, social entrepreneurs, and good Samaritans from around the globe.
Read more

(the about page is also available in Bahasa Indonesia, Chinese 汉语/漢語, Deutsch, Español, Français, Italiano, Nihongo 日本語, Ivrit עברית, Filipino, Polski, Português, Russian Русский язык, Slovenčina, Suomi, Svenska and Türkçe)