Cigarette advertising has always been known for pithy slogans, from "They satisfy" (Chesterfield) to "Come to Marlboro country" to "Fire it up!" (Newport). Now the antismoking forces are being similarly succinct, asking in an ambitious new campaign a two-word question, "Quit yet?"
The query is the centerpiece of a television, radio, print, outdoor and Internet effort by LMP/NYC, the agency formerly known as Lotas Minard Patton McIver, on behalf of the New York City Department of Health. The budget is $3 million through the end of June, financed by the settlement between the nation's tobacco companies and the attorneys general of states including New York.
The campaign, which is aimed at women in their 20's who are thinking of giving up smoking, is indicative of a trend that is helping to reshape the role of advertising in contemporary society. More and more, Madison Avenue is producing ads that seek to change consumer behavior in far more profound ways than merely getting someone to switch from one brand of soap or soup to another. That is, of course, difficult to accomplish.
"One way to promote behavior change is to target smokers who are already contemplating quitting," says Jeffrey Escoffier, director for the health media and marketing group at the health department. "And the agency's strategy was to place reminders, gentle reminders, everywhere."
"In focus groups, we asked smokers about antitobacco advertising they've seen," he adds, "and the response was that they changed channels in the middle because they didn't want to listen to the whole message."
The reason, says Joanna Patton, a partner at LMP/NYC, is that most antismoking ads are perceived as judgmental, as if they were scolding the smoker "by saying 'You don't have any gumption to quit.'"
"With our campaign, we're hoping it's more like 'You've got a problem but it's not your fault, and we can help,'" she adds. "The hardest thing most people do in their lives is stopping smoking."
That is expressed in some of the television and radio commercials through the use of the song "You Made Me Love You," which is presented as if smokers are singing it to -- and about -- cigarettes.
"It's to stress the addictive nature of nicotine," Mr. Escoffier says, pointing to lyrics like "You made me love you; I didn't want to do it" and "You made me want you, and all the time you knew it, I guess you always knew it."
The song, and the jazzy style in which it is sung, are also intended, he adds, "to show a New York that is glamorous and fun without smoking."
Indeed, says Sandra Mullin, associate commissioner for public affairs at the health department, the goal is "a film noir in reverse."
The TV spot, which through special effects shows "Quit yet?" emblazoned on familiar city sights from subway station signs to "Walk/Don't Walk" signs, is running on local cable systems. The radio spots, in English and Spanish, are running on 14 music and news stations.
The other media, also in English and Spanish, include signs atop taxis, posters on buses and bus shelters and banner ads on Web sites. The stations carrying the radio spots are featuring "Quit yet?" on their own sites and including the campaign in promotional events like bike-a-thons and health fairs.
All the ads ask smokers to call a special toll-free telephone number (888-609-6292) for more information.
"Calls to the 'quit line' are up" since the campaign began, Ms. Patton says. Ms. Mullin estimates the increase at more than 200 percent, to 500 calls a week from 150 a week.
In other words, another pithy old cigarette slogan, "Call for Philip Morris," can now be countered with calls against Philip Morris . . . and R. J. Reynolds, Brown & Williamson and Lorillard, too.
Stuart Elliott, The New York Times. April 9, 2001
Copyright © 2001 The New York Times Company. All rights reserved.