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Anti-Smoking Spots Get Real

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Taking a page from reality-style programming like Survivor, the state of Utah's new anti-smoking effort is chronicling the real-life struggles of seven smokers trying to quit.

Created by Salt Lake City agencies Love Communications and Crowell & Associates, the work is designed to promote a new phone-in "quit line" established by the state's Dept. of Health as part of the Tobacco Prevention & Control Program.

"Our No. 1 goal is to get people to call the Utah Tobacco Quit Line to get information on learning how to quit smoking," said Love Communications vice president, creative director Richard Love.

Lena Dibble, community health specialist for the Tobacco Prevention & Control Program, said ads are also meant to "show viewers what they might expect when they go through the quitting process."

The idea for a reality-based campaign stemmed from research and focus groups, where smokers said they'd prefer hope, encouragement and "something real" with which they could identify, rather than commercials that criticize Big Tobacco, include lectures or discuss the challenges of quitting, Love said.

Love said he looked for "interesting, animated" people who "had good stories to tell." After holding interviews, the shop selected a cross-section of men and women who have smoked anywhere from three to 42 years. Among the chosen: an 18-year-old gymnastics coach, a 38-year-old wildlife rehabilitator and a 62-year-old Delta Airlines employee. According to the DOH, Utah is home to 200,000 adult smokers.

The participants were interviewed on camera once or twice a week to discuss their progress; they were also given camcorders to capture themselves on video at key moments. Each week, footage was edited into three or four 30-second spots, which have a gritty doc umentary style.

Originally slated to run for eight weeks ending in October, the campaign has been extended an extra month because of the success of the participants. Only one person has dropped out, and the remaining six all kicked the habit, Love said.

The quit line, which offers tobacco- cessation counseling, referrals, booklets and other quit-smoking aids, launched in September.

Two-year-old Love Communications has worked with the DOH since August 2000. Media spending is under $1 million.