I'm looking at a bunch of anti-smoking creative -- from cutting-edgiest to decades-old -- and am wondering why just about all of the ads use fear to get people to quit (if that was the actual goal, that is).
Is it because fear ads are high on recall? But how many of those who remember that smoking kills (probably just about every smoker) actually take the step?
People subjected to fear ads may show higher intent to quit -- and that's how this creative is probably focus-grouped -- but do they manage to stay away?
Buyology's author Martin Lindstrom writes about fMRI scans of smokers' brains: "The warning labels backfired: they stimulated the nucleus accumbens, sometimes called the “craving spot,” which lights up on f.M.R.I. whenever a person craves something, whether it’s alcohol, drugs, tobacco or gambling."
[A piece of history trivia: ads sponsored by Big Tobacco that were designed to prevent teen smoking achieved the opposite effect (here's why).]
If you are working on an anti-smoking assignment, take a look at Allen Carr's The Easy Way to Stop Smoking, a self-help book that has been more successful in getting people to quit than many other methods. Instead of nagging the smokers or scaring the bejesus out of them, he calmly -- and at times cheesily -- explains how smoking doesn't have any of the positive effects that smokers count on, such as controlling anxieties or relieving stress. It also explains how quitting doesn't bring about the withdrawal pangs smokers dread.
A campaign based on this platform would be a breath of fresh air.
On a related note, this Halo-themed anti-smoking machinima spot is lovely: