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Smoke signals

It's funny how fashions change. We're not talking clothes here, cinema, literature or music, but smoking; cigarette smoking to be precise


It's funny how fashions change. We're not talking clothes here, cinema, literature or music, but smoking; cigarette smoking to be precise. In our youth, smoking was the epitome of cool: younger boys feared you; your mates respected you; older boys admired you and girls... well... they fancied you.

Actually, this probably wasn't true. We were 15 and deluded.

But it certainly isn't true today. Such has been the shift in public attitudes towards smoking that the July 1 ban on smoking in public places in England went largely unchallenged. And it's now likely that more smokers than ever - faced with the prospect of spending cold, wet winter days outside offices, and even colder, wetter winter evenings outside pubs - will be looking to their GPs and pharmacists for help with giving up the dreaded weed.

Research published recently in the Journal of Political Economy shows that advertising for smoking cessation aids definitely encourages smokers to quit. Today, health professionals have an incredible array of such aids at their disposal. So, will the ads aimed specifically at this group elicit a similar positive response? Which, if any, are addictive, and which should be issued an on-the-spot fine, ushered out the door, and told not to return until they've mended their anti-social ways?

Nicorette Combination Therapy

Tobacco companies were renowned, and infamous, for creating some of the most iconic and seductive ad campaigns of our time. Faced with an unprecedented level of regulatory control, ads for brands like Silk Cut and B&H re-defined consumer advertising. By saying so little, they spoke volumes. The target audience wasn't preached to, instead they were drawn in and left to find the final piece of the communication jigsaw for themselves. And when the penny finally dropped, they nipped straight down to the shops for a pack of 10 Benson.

Pity the same can't be said for this less-than-striking offering. This ad packs in everything, but says very little. It doesn't invite readers to take part in the communication process. As such, they won't. They will simply turn the page before they get to the first bullet point.

What next for this campaign? ...hit back with... (baseball); ...fight back with... (boxing); ...beat off with (granny/handbag/mugger). The opportunities are endless. Zzzzzzz...


For years smokers have had little more than nicotine replacement and motivational support to help them quit. (Whatever happened to Zyban?) But that's all changed. Champix is new - you can see this in the eyebrow. Champix makes mincemeat out of cancer sticks - you can see this in the visual.

And Champix has well and truly jumped on to the smoking BANdwagon - extremely clear in the latest incarnation of this ubiquitous ad. With its in-yer-face, no-nonsense approach, coupled with the vast - and we really mean vast - media spend, this ad will have GPs up and down the country prescribing the brand by the bucketful. Result.

This, however, is not an endorsement for the ad. Quite the opposite. This ad exploits every cliché in the book. Our point is: when there's oodles of money to spend, mediocrity will suffice. But when there isn't - as is so often the case - well, that's when creative, engaging advertising really comes into its own.

Gerry Smith and Sunjay Soni are creative directors Eurocomm Healthcare Communications
Nicorette freshmint

There's a school of thought in advertising which goes something like this: when you show a picture of a horse, the headline should read 'this horse is a horse'. Then there's no room for confusion or mixed metaphors and everyone's happy. Lots of pharma ads do this, but thankfully, even though this one does feature a horse, it isn't from that stable.

There's a strong, single-minded idea here that's simply, if not unusually, executed: not all smokers can stop immediately, so don't let them take the plunge and fail. Advise them to cut down and quit in their own time. Sound advice that is sure to resonate with health professionals, especially when they learn that over four million smokers fall into this category.

But back to the visual: a tribute to the horse-riding Marlboro Man? Not likely, he died of lung cancer. Or is it rather that the creators of this ad know all too well that GPs simply can't resist a four-legged mammal in a mildly amusing situation? Flomax zookeeper, anyone?

NiQuitin CQ

SMOKING KILLS set in Helvetica bold with its stark black border is just one of the many ominous cigarette labels used to deter today's smokers. And you could get hit by a bus tomorrow is typical of the many spoof labels adorning the boxes of the more defiantly die-hard inhalers among us.

So, one would hope that the country's pharmacists, to whom this trade ad is aimed, will take the words on this medicine label to heart. The photographic style here is as real and authoritative as its subject. Having the strong declaration of intent typed on the label is a considered touch, empowering the nation's pharmacists to follow suit.

You will get fat if you stop smoking is another label particularly lauded among the fashionistas. Well, not if our pharmacist can help it, the weight control caveat on the blue band is another armament in a simple, clear and concise trade ad.

Ad Lib is a creative critique of healthcare ads and does not take into account the marketing objectives behind the campaigns reviewed.


This ad seems to have been conceived in a pub (before July 1, naturally) while staring at a couple of full-to-the-brim ashtrays...'I know what we can do with those two zeros in 2010!' Still, they could have been dartboards.

With more targets to hit than an Olympic archery team, GPs must be sick of the sight of them. But there's one other crucial thing that this ad fails to appreciate: stopping smoking isn't about targets.

It's about individuals empowering themselves and, with the help of their GP or pharmacist, exercising control over their own health and wellbeing. This ad is devoid of humanity. It's cold, cynical and simply lumps all smokers into one big homogenous statistic. The chief medical officer recommends a good look at last year's BHF 'fatty arteries' campaign.

17th September 2007


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