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The worst ad ever created

It is this one, right here.

As part of a settlement with the US federal government, tobacco companies are running ads warning against the perils of smoking. The resulting ads, not surprisingly, are almost comically terrible and will convince approximately zero people to stop smoking.

The placement is also very narrow: Five times a week for a year during primetime on ABC, NBC, and CBS, and also five full-page newspaper ads in 50 daily newspapers. As anti-smoking advocates argue, young people don’t watch much primetime network TV and they certainly aren’t reading hard copies of newspapers so the audience for these messages is limited.

Fifty years ago, before people knew the risks of smoking, maybe these ads would have had some impact (that is, if you didn’t fall asleep during the first 10 seconds). But if you’re smoking in 2017, either your addiction is extremely powerful or you just don’t care about warnings like this. There is certainly no new information here.

Perhaps more effective approach would be to leverage behavior science, which is what Australia has done. They have mandated that cigarette packs feature graphic imagery of ravaged lungs, gangrenous feet, and cancer-ridden tongues, among other horrors. It takes a strong stomach to look at these images, which may unconsciously nudge people to keep their cigarette packs out of sight (and thus, maybe, out of mind) or might discourage people from buying them at all. (Australia’s packaging also is stripped of any brand logos, and merely lists the brand name in plain white font.)