Category: Social Good
Case Study: Anti-Tobacco
The holy grail of anti-tobacco: Help hardcore smokers quit.
In all the anti-tobacco efforts aimed to help people kick the habit, the most impenetrable audience has been hardcore smokers. These are defined as people who’ve been smoking since their teens or before; most have tried to quit an average of 10 times without success. This group is also often living near the poverty line, so the pressures of daily life are immense, and cigarettes are often their only escape.
Hardcore smokers have heard it all. And they’re not listening.
Working with the WA State Department of Health, we interviewed dozens of these smokers throughout the state. The refrain was always the same. They’ve been told to quit by spouses, kids, family, friends, co-workers, doctors and ad campaigns over and over again. They know the risks. They know they should quit. But the addiction is more powerful than the lectures, and they stopped listening long ago.
One person said it best: “The only person who can make me quit is me.”
Have smokers convince themselves to quit.
With that admission, we decided to ask every person in our focus group to write a letter to themselves. With pen in hand, they each scribbled down their reasons to quit for good and read their letters aloud to the group. When the tears started falling from readers and listeners alike, we knew we had our answer.
The campaign execution was simple: recreate the self-letter writing experience. Keep it raw and unadorned. Just the smoker writing and reading their letter. We called the campaign “Dear Me.”
We featured real people and documented their experience in TV, radio, and digital and social content, as well as newspaper and outdoor bus boards showing actual handwritten letters. The campaign was transformative, empowering and astonishingly successful. Because it didn’t come from us. It came from the smokers themselves.
Calls to WA State quit lines tripled, and statistics show that once smokers are engaged with social programs their quit success rate increases by 500%. Due to its success, “Dear Me” was quickly adopted by the Center for Disease Control and to date has been implemented in 19 other states across America.