Outdoor Messages In Mississippi Steer Teens Clear Of Tobacco Road

The Mississippi State Department of Health has launched a statewide outdoor ad campaign against teen smoking.
The ads, developed by Maris, West & Baker in Jackson, Miss., are a prelude to future anti-tobacco messages to be funded by monies from the state’s $3.4 billion settlement with the tobacco industry last summer.
Currently, 120 boards around Mississippi carry one of the three new ads, said Michael Bowling, an official with the Mississippi State Department of Health in Jackson. Most of the new boards replaced tobacco company ads, he added.
Eric Hughes, creative director at Maris, West & Baker (MW&B), said trying to convert habitual teen smokers was “simply pushing a rock uphill.” Instead, the agency used humor to sway non-smoking teens from ever picking up the habits of smoking or dipping tobacco.
One ad features a retro photo of a young man holding a cigarette. The headline: “Your parents did it. How cool can it be?” Another shows a beautiful girl smoking juxtaposed with copy that reads: “The face of a supermodel, the breath of a pit bull.” The ad shown above stemmed from MW&B’s focus groups in which, according to Hughes, teen girls said they view chewing tobacco as “gross.”
Following Mississippi’s settlement with four major tobacco makers in July, MW&B approached the state attorney general’s office about creating an anti-smoking campaign. That office put MW&B in touch with the state’s health department.
“There was no agency review. We asked for an audience and received one,” said MW&B president David Kimball.
Although MW&B donated its services, media for the campaign was paid for with existing grant funds, said the health department’s Bowling.
Mississippi’s tobacco settlement means “there will be monies for more of these types of campaigns–bigger and better,” said Bowling. He said a formal agency review is a “good possibility” in the coming months, although he did not specify a time frame.