MWH Fires More TV Salvos at Secondhand Smoke

A new anti-tobacco television spot aimed at New Mexicans hinges on the irony of worrying about a fallen fork at a restaurant and not about the secondhand smoke filling the room.

McKee Wallwork Henderson of Albuquerque, N.M., created the 30-second commercial for the New Mexico Department of Health, which funds the ads through the state’s settlement with Big Tobacco.

As a wife asks a waiter for another fork for her husband, on-screen copy states, “53,000 people die each year from secondhand smoke.” Then, “No one has ever died from a dirty fork.”

A similar spot shows a mom worrying about lipstick on her daughter’s glass. Both ads break today on broadcast and cable TV throughout the state. Each is complemented by a Spanish-language version and will air through June 2003.

“What the creative team was trying to get at is, it’s ridiculous people are worried about dropping a fork when they’re breathing in secondhand smoke as they’re eating,” said account supervisor Chris Moore.

The spots were designed not only to make people aware of the problem, but also to inform viewers that secondhand smoke is a serious health problem, Moore said.

MWH has created anti-tobacco print ads, but has found TV to be the optimal medium for reaching a large part of its audience beyond Santa Fe and Albuquerque.

“We’re such a large state geographically, and it’s more difficult to reach rural populations with anything but network television when we’re doing a statewide campaign,” Moore said.

The ads will air in conjunction with smoking cessation spots the agency began running last year.

That work originally featured By-ron Holton, who was dying of lung cancer and wished he had not smoked. His daughter, Jeri Uhlmansiek, is a managing partner at the agency. Now the spots focus on Holton’s wife and grandson, who share their emotions about his passing.

MWH research indicates the anti-tobacco messages are reaching state residents. Awareness of the campaigns rose to 53 percent last month, up from 35 percent in March 2001.