Public service announcements have been around forever, and they always come in whatever form will be effectively disseminated to reach as many people as possible. Anti-smoking campaigns are famous for using the media to reach people with their message, using print and television to build campaigns encouraging people not to smoke for the last couple of generations.
Changes in the way we communicate over the last decade or so, however, have meant that the organizations behind these campaigns have had to change up their strategy. There are hundreds of television channels and fewer people are watching those anyway, so it is almost pointless to air ads on TV.
So how do anti-smoking campaigns reach the audiences they intend to reach? How do they do it more effectively than tobacco advertising, when Big Tobacco has billions of dollars to spend every year?
The answer is social media. People are using social media more and more, to communicate ideas and keep up on what is going on in the world. Companies are using social media to advertise their products and influence thoughts and ideas.
Messaging is becoming more and more precise, and organizations are able to reach more and more targeted audiences with social media campaigns than ever before. Because of this, companies making alternative products that help people kick the habit are also able to reach their intended customers more efficiently.
Not only are there campaigns that encourage people to avoid cigarettes, but companies that make tobacco alternatives are getting in on the action too. New products come out every day, meant to assist people in their efforts to quit smoking. These companies create their own campaign of sorts, to make sure people know that there are other options and ways to support smoking cessation.
It is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor to quit smoking, and companies like Black Buffalo make tobacco free dip, which gives consumers more flexibility in their choices for kicking the habit for good. The advertising for alternative products almost always focus on quitting smoking and using these products as an aid, recognizing that some people may want to give up the tobacco but they are not quite ready to give up the ritual or the nicotine.
Reaching People Where They Are
The most important part of any sort of campaign, whether you are selling something or trying to get a point across, is meeting your audience where they are. The most successful campaigns make use of all types of social media, and target audiences based on who uses what. It is important to tailor messages to be meaningful to each type of audience.
People who have not yet started smoking need a message that differs from people who have started smoking. The separation of messaging does not stop there. Campaigns targeting each generation individually will reach people in more meaningful ways than campaigns that simply make all of their material toward a more general group of people.
The CDC has created a campaign called “Tips From Former Smokers,” which helps people see the real human consequences of smoking. They have photos with anti-smoking messaging that people can share on their social media accounts, and they are formatted for all major platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram.
These messages cover many issues related to smoking, including the health consequences of cigarettes and how to quit.
The most important part of this campaign is the wealth of information available to visitors to their anti-smoking website. They are using social media to share real stories by real people, then directing people to their resources for how to quit.
Probably one of the most comprehensive and user-friendly anti-smoking websites on the internet, Smokefree.gov also runs a Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook campaign. The messaging on social media is incredibly straightforward, taking advantage of the fact that most people who smoke want to quit.
They offer regular tips for small things you can do to control your cravings and regularly post information directing users to their quit-line and their website, where people can find more information.
Once you get to their website, they have resources tailored to individual groups of people, including men, women, veterans, senior citizens, and the Latino community. The site has created an app intended to help people get through their quitting journey with information, encouragement, and progress tracking; they have numbers you can call and numbers you can text, ensuring that everyone can get the help they need in the format that works best for them.
Anti-smoking campaigns are in constant competition with Big Tobacco, to learn how to most effectively reach audiences. The problem facing the message to quit smoking or to not take it up, however, is that the same amount of money is not available to the organizations behind the messages. Regardless, these campaigns can effectively reach people where they are by using social media, sharing real life stories and offering useful tips.
The most valuable part of the campaign, however, is getting people to visit the websites where there are resources to quit smoking and ways of getting support. These resources are an incredibly powerful tool for anyone looking to take the next step.