Tobacco is the No. 1 cause of death in the Netherlands, taking 20,000 people to the Big Sleep every year. Frustratingly, it’s also the most preventable one.
But research also shows that smokers know how unhealthy smoking is, and don’t particularly care—either because we’re addicted, or because nothing ever seems all that scary until a little cough becomes something else, and suddenly your whole life has changed.
Stivoro, the country’s Foundation for Smoking and Health, wanted to get people up in arms about this, so it worked with Wefilm, last seen on Heineken’s HR campaign, to produce “A Deadly Serious Matter.”
In this odd fable, we get to see a tobacco company from the inside, talking openly about the ugly reasons for their success. All of it takes place in the context of a good-bye party for a fond colleague.
“Every single day, 100 new children became addicted, and that’s what we depend upon,” a lady whispers intimately as she passes her a gift, followed by kisses.
It’s totally sociopathic. But in a fun way!
It’s hard to say whether this ad will yield fewer deaths by tobacco. Quitting a habit is a personal journey, rarely a decision made (and kept) in the heat of a moment. But if you believe in the banality of evil, this is what it looks like—cheesy jokes and camaraderie heightened to a surreal, sinister level by the subject matter.
The ad contains all the trappings of a conventional office party—finger food, a boss giving a speech, polite laughter from colleagues. As champagne glasses clink, everyone gamely cheers, “More addicts!”
And of course there’s the ritual complaining as things begin to die down.
“I pour myself a bottle of wine every night in order not to lie awake,” one man casually tells a woman.
“I do not know how to explain to my family that I work here,” she answers, shaking his hand.
“I can’t live with myself!” he cries pleasantly as the elevator dings open.
“Me neither!” she replies, bouyant as all get-out, then heads off.
Concept and Production: Wefilm
Director: Beer ten Kate
Producers: Wibout Warnaar, Bas Welling
Director of Photography: Thomas Leermakers
Editor: Daan Wierda
Postpproduction: The Ambassadors
Public Relations: Bijl PR
Client Representative: Gerrit Jan van Otterloo