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UC Irvine Study Identifies Keys to Successful Anti-Smoking Advertisements Targeting Teens

As a number of states make plans to use national tobacco settlement funds to launch anti-smoking campaigns, a UC Irvine Graduate School of Management professor is reporting research findings that show it takes a special approach -- the right messenger as well as the right message -- to discourage teens from smoking.

Connie Pechmann, a professor of marketing, has found that teenagers do not respond to advertisements that use adults as spokespeople or stress smoking-related health dangers such as cancer and lung disease.

"If you want to talk to kids, you have to put kids in the ads, and messages focusing on long-term health effects don't work because teens don't expect to become addicted," Pechmann said.

Her study, co-authored by UCI Health Education Center Director Ellen Thomas Reibling and published in the latest issue of Tobacco Control, examined advertising campaigns in five states, as well as a Canadian initiative, to determine why some worked better than others.

The anti-smoking campaign initiated by Vermont researchers proved the most cost-effective, because it significantly reduced teen smoking at a low per capita cost. Next in order of cost-effectiveness were California, Massachusetts and Florida, whose campaigns showed modest effects. Campaigns in Minnesota and Canada were found to be ineffective.

In the most effective campaigns, the UCI researchers found greater use of messages teens could relate to, a focused strategy emphasizing a single theme, avoidance of unclear messages and use of youthful spokespeople with whom teen-agers could readily identify.

Pechmann said the Vermont campaign is the best model for future anti-smoking campaigns targeting teens. "The Vermont ads worked because they taught kids how to refuse to smoke by giving them a role model and communicated the message that there are a lot of really cool people who have chosen not to smoke," Pechmann said.

California emphasized the health effects of second-hand smoke, another theme that Pechmann says works well with teens. California also has used anti-smoking advertisements attacking the tobacco industry for targeting young people in marketing campaigns. The UCI study shows that California realized positive results initially, but did not sustain them. The reasons, Pechmann noted, include cuts in the state's advertising budget and a shift to less hard-hitting advertisements.


unknown, July 17, 2000, BUSINESS WIRE via NewsEdge Corporation

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