Anti-Smokers Should Try Guerrilla Approach

I distribute a small publication in my remote Alaskan town and I would love to have an advertising billboard at the airport that said: “Whatever You Do, Read This Publication.”

If they wouldn’t let me do that, the next best thing would be a billboard saying: “Whatever You Do, Don’t Read This Publication.”

This is nothing new. The old saying is “The only bad advertising is no advertising.” Remember the crowds lining up for tickets outside theaters whose plays had been “Banned in Boston”?

According  to this old rule, the signs at schoolyards that say, “Tobacco-Free Zone” are providing free advertising and actually putting the idea of tobacco in people’s (and schoolkids’) heads. The same with the ubiquitous “No Smoking” signs many businesses have been ordered to put on their front doors. Or the clever, eye-catching anti-smoking ads run at the beginning of (often) Miramax DVDs.

People who wouldn’t ordinarily think of tobacco at all will think of it after seeing one of the above. That’s all advertisers ever want – just a little bit of your consciousness (or subconsciousness.)

This is why I – smoker – tend to light up when a character in a movie does the same.

I can hear your criticism: “These ads clearly say No!”  I would then ask you to consider the potent effect of the word “No” on people – especially the rebellious adolescents you’re trying to keep from experimenting with tobacco in the first place.

The new graphic images planned for cigarette packs will be attracting the attention of a lot of people (especially, already gross-image-friendly preadolescents) who would hopefully not be thinking about tobacco at all.

Instead, I think the anti-smoking folks should consider a guerrilla-style advertising campaign. Cover cigarette packs with messages promoting healthy lifestyle choices – broccoli, jogging, yoga – but do not mention smoking at all.

Make these clever and fun ads about what people should do for good health – instead of what they should not do.

I think such an indirect approach could be very effective in promoting healthy choices to a target population (smokers) – which might even lead to more of them quitting.


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