Duncan Channon, California Public Health Program Launch Campaign Targeting Flavored Tobacco Products

'Flavors Hook Kids' kicks off today on multiple platforms

If you thought the days of tobacco companies appealing to teens were long gone, Duncan Channon and the California Department of Public Health’s CA Tobacco Control Program (CTCP) have a wake-up call for you.

A new campaign entitled “Flavors Hook Kids,” which the agency claims is the largest effort to date targeting flavored tobacco products in the country, will run on broadcast, digital video, radio and out-of-home (OOH) across all 14 markets in California.

The campaign’s launch happens to coincide with an FDA announcement on new enforcement actions as part of its Youth Tobacco Prevention Program targeting the use of e-cigarettes, including examining youth appeal of Juul, foreclosing online sales of Juul to minors and a request for information sent to Juul Labs.

“The troubling reality is that electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) such as e-cigarettes have become wildly popular with kids,” the department said in a statement. “We understand, by all accounts, many of them may be using products that closely resemble a USB flash drive, have high levels of nicotine and emissions that are hard to see. These characteristics may facilitate youth use, by making the products more attractive to children and teens.”

“For an industry that is so focused on youth, ways that we can market to youth, I think it’s equally important that we’re paying attention to protecting them as well,” Duncan Channon executive creative director Anne Elisco-Lemme told Adweek.

A trio of broadcast spots focus on parents documenting their children’s first exposure to new flavors. These very same flavors, from donuts to bananas, the ad shows, are then used to hook teens on vaping.

Elisco-Lemme said the campaign’s approach stemmed from “the realization that the tobacco industry is still laser-focused on teens and youth … The broadcast work that deals with parents lovingly watching kids learn about flavors came out of the same insights.”

Another pair of spots take a more subtle approach, highlighting how easy it is to miss the signs that teens may be getting into tobacco through vaping–and how easy it is for them to acquire and hide their use of such products.

“Bedroom” shows two girls casually talking about a crush while one of them is sitting in front of a laptop. She then pulls out a vape pen that looks almost exactly like a USB flash drive, showing how easy it is for teens to disguise their use of such products.

“School” shows a group of three friends talking over flavors such as Brain Freeze and Sour Gummy Worms, ending by driving home how easy it is for teens to purchase tobacco products online.

Elisco-Lemme explained that the tobacco industry is well-aware that teens are mostly uninterested in cigarettes.

“They are interested in things that look cool, interesting tech, things that can pass underneath the noses of parents and teachers, because they don’t look, smell or taste like a cigarette,” she said, “fueling their rebellions as well. Kids are so smart about how to get a hold of these products.”

The campaign also includes 16 OOH ads, highlighting “The tobacco industry’s kids menu” with candy coloring highlighting flavors such as “Unicorn Poop.” Other OOH ads showcase e-cigarette products that disguise themselves as innocent items such as flash drives and hot sauce bottles.

Elisco-Lemme said the pro-vaping community are defending the use of flavors, claiming they aren’t targeted at children and adults should have access to products they claim are safer than cigarettes.

“When you look at flavors like Unicorn Poop and Dragon Blood … all the other kid flavors they are imitating, that whole thing falls apart. They are trying to speak to the public in a way that makes them victims of the work that we’re doing,” she told Adweek. “There’s no amount of justification in the world when you look at what’s happening with the youth right now, the massive uptick in use of flavored tobacco products.”

“When have we heard of this idea of the ‘safer cigarette’ before?” she asked, pointing to the industry’s past efforts to pass off filtered cigarettes as a safer product. “They have their playbook and it worked and they’re basically doing the same things now.”

“We know the tobacco industry is a very manipulative industry. People just need to be made aware that it’s happening again,” she added.

The campaign marks Duncan Channon’s first work for CTCP as part of a new business win for public education campaigns funded by CA Proposition 56, following a review. Duncan Channon began working with CTCP over three years ago, but a review was launched in the wake of the passing of CA Proposition 56, with the agency successfully defending and expanding its relationship with the client. The agency’s current contract with CTCP is for five years.

Agency: Duncan Channon
• Creative director – Anne Elisco-Lemme
• Lead copywriter – MJ Deery
• Lead designer – Jennifer Kellogg
• Copywriter – Marty Bonocorso
• Art director – Melissa Ploysophon
• Copywriter – Amanda Burger
• Art director – Colleen Horne
• Copywriter – Miranda Maney
• Art director – Chris Masse
• Senior broadcast producer – Keenan Hemje
• Senior broadcast producer – Christine Gomez
• Senior digital producer – Eric Kozak
• Producer – Emily Sarale
• Senior art producer – Diana Courcier
• Chief strategy officer – Andy Berkenfield
• Strategy director – Kelleen Peckham
• Strategist – Adam Flynn
• Digital strategist – Brandon Sugarman
• Director of communications planning – Leslie Diard
• Group director of communications planning – Rochelle Armstrong
•Communications planning supervisor – Paulo Delacruz
• Communications planner – Caitlin Delaney
• Director of account management – Jamie Katz
• Account director – Kumi Croom
• Account supervisor – Rachel Smutney
• Senior account manager – Davis Wolfe
• Associate account manager – Neha Sinha

TV Production: MJZ
• Directors – Will Hoffman & Julius Metoyer
• President – David Zander
• Senior executive producer – Eriks Krumins
• Producer – Suza Horvat
• Editorial – Cabin Edit
• Editor – Issac Chen
• Executive producer – Carr Schilling
• Producer – Michelle Dorsch
• Editor & finishing – Kurt Zhuang
• Sound engineer – Joaby Deal, One Union Studios
• Footage sourced & licensed by Stalkr

• Sound Design – Barking Owl
• Creative Director – Kelly Bayett
• Sound Designer – Morgan Johnson
• Producer – KC Dossett

• Lifestyle photographer – Priscilla Gragg
• Production company – Jessica Ruiz, Related Production
• Lifestyle photographer – Christaan Felber
• Production company – Meghan Gallagher, Connect The Dots
• Senior art producer – Sharon Kuerschner
• Product photographer – Levi Brown
• Production company – Jessica Ruiz, Related Production

Website production: Beyond
• Senior digital project manager – Marcus Chairez
• Art director – Ross Fischer
• Senior product designer – Robert Surrency
• Product designer – Agatha Kielczewski
• Senior interaction designer – Victor Tolosa
• Senior product designer – Rachel Mersky
• Producer – Mark Abraham
• Front end developer – Sarah Mendham
• Senior back end developer – Ching Leung

•Hispanic cultural partner — Acento
•Asian cultural partner — APartnership
•African American cultural partner — Muse
•Broadcast media buying — MBMG
@ErikDOster erik.oster@adweek.com Erik Oster is an agencies reporter for Adweek.