Marketing

Animated Cessation Advertisements Lean Into Empathy to Encourage Quitting Nicotine

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The reasons to quit smoking and vaping are more obvious than ever amid the global spread of a deadly virus that, in large part, wreaks havoc on the respiratory system. It’s likely very few smokers need any reminders about the inherent health risks. Breaking such an addiction isn’t easy, however, particularly with the added anxiety in such stressful times.

Recent years have seen a move away from the kind of scare tactics and guilt-driven messaging once synonymous with cessation campaigns, with a 2018 anti-smoking campaign from Alma dropping such tactics in favor of focusing on the larger reasons smokers wanted to quit.

Communicating warmth instead of burning

California Tobacco Control Project’s new campaign is led by San Francisco independent agency Duncan Channon, in partnership with multicultural agencies Acento and Apartnership. The effort takes a further step away from the old scalding approach and towards a more warmly, encouraging direction. It attempts to communicate an awareness of the difficulties vapers and smokers face. The ads acknowledge what is often a long, arduous process of trying to break their addiction by sharing stories from former smokers and vapers who have found a way to the other side. These tales are told via animation from production partner Nexus Studios, which brings their distinct stories and personalities to life. Each ad ends by driving viewers to NoButts.org or the CA Smokers Helpline for help.

Knowing isn’t enough

Education around the health impact of vaping will likely remain an important part of anti-vaping efforts for the foreseeable future. But knowledge of the deleterious effects of these habits isn’t enough. Duncan Channon ecd Anne Elisco-Lemme explained that both smoking and vaping need to be understood as addictions that often begin at a young age and become difficult to break.

“When it comes to nicotine addiction, it’s not lost on smokers and vapers that it’s a real struggle, and there are serious health implications involved in that addiction. One of the things we found to be really interesting when talking about addiction is that there’s a lot of self-hate in that. We realized that smokers and vapers need an enormous amount of empathy because what they’re going through is a really difficult process,” Elisco-Lemme told Adweek. “This lifelong addiction is a really difficult thing to break. We wanted to give respect to this struggle.”

“What we can’t do anymore is make smokers and vapers feel guilty and like they’ve done something wrong,” she added. “We have to be so much more empathetic.”

Created by ex-smokers, for smokers

Elisco-Lemme explained that members of the creative team behind the campaign were former smokers or vapers themselves, which helped them bring an increased level of empathy and insight to the campaign. Notably, former smoker or vapers telling their stories in the ads share relatable anecdotes about all the attempts and stages along the way. An unintended effect of the approach, Elisco-Lemme said, was to generate more empathy among those have never been smokers or vapers, something which hopefully can lead to more understanding support from friends and family when initial stages in the process don’t lead all the way to kicking the addiction.

“Most of the time to get on the path to being a non-smoker or non-vaper it require tens or dozens of attempts. We wanted to normalize that process so that if somebody fails at an attempt it’s not really a failure, it’s on the path to quitting, Elisco-Lemme said. “It’s like building a muscle. You have to keep at it. Your brain learns how to be addicted, so you have to learn how to quit.”

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Jeffrey Rabinowitz