An Adorable, Shriveled Pair of Smoker’s Lungs Live a Comically Miserable Life in FDA’s New Ads

FCB targets teens with stop-motion spots

Little Lungs just can’t breathe easy.
That’s because Little Lungs—the star of FCB New York’s cute stop-motion PSAs for the Food & Drug Administration Center for Tobacco Products—smoked as a teenager and never grew to normal size.
At times, our hero resembles conjoined baked potatoes. In fact, he’s a pair of anthropomorphic lungs with googly eyes.
Hornet’s Peter Sluszka directed five zippy online ads, which show Little Lungs struggling to keep up with his healthy pals. At the close of each commercial, he meets a yucky-comic fate, Celebrity Death Match style.
In our first spot, snowboarding knocks Little Lungs out stone cold:

“We wanted to create a content series with a character people could fall in love with and root for, even if doing so proved to be a lost cause,” Ari Halper, FCB New York’s chief creative officer, tells Adweek. “And while it wasn’t intentionally designed to spoof anything, one might say it was loosely inspired by the irreverent comedy of shows like Robot Chicken, and Kenny from South Park, which are notoriously loved by our teen target.”
Gym glass is no fun for Little Lungs, either. (Hey, it’s hell for pretty much everyone.)

“The audience is the at-risk teen,” says Halper. “These are the teens who are experimenting even though they know it’s bad for them. Our campaign needed to break through the clutter of all the messages they have already seen and already ignored. So, rather than preach to them a bunch of overplayed warnings, we packaged our information in disarmingly entertaining animated shorts.”
Next, the wheezy dude can’t even blow out his birthday candles:

You’ve gotta wonder just how many more birthdays he’s going to see, right?
Of course, lungs—real lungs—have appeared in anti-smoking spots many times before. Sometimes, these are sickly, seared organs, shocking to behold.
While Little Lungs eschews such terrifying tropes in favor of a softer sell to communicate “The Real Cost” of smoking, his adventures “in a great big world” match up well with teens’ everyday concerns. Teens want to enjoy fun activities and be accepted by their peers. The notion that smoking might ruin their leisure time or social lives could make some think twice before lighting up.
And while extremely cute, the ads have just enough icky edge to promote sharing and deliver their thoughtful message.
Take, for example, the bicycle and pool-party scenarios below, which both go badly awry. Yo, Little Lungs, look out for riding mowers and—gasp!—sharks.

“It required over 3,000 stills to tell these stories,” which will appear on YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and other social venues, says Halper. “We had two animators working simultaneously on two separate sets, 12 hours a day, for three weeks. We killed time playing with a gooey substance called museum wax that was used for Little Lungs’ blood.”
“Another fun challenge was the constant debates over wardrobe,” he says. “It’s harder than you think to dress a pair of lungs. For example, with two hemispheres, how in the hell do you outfit a pair of lungs for a helmet?”
Client: FDA – Center for Tobacco Products
Kathy Crosby, Director, Health Communication & Education
April Brubach, Deputy Director, Health Communication & Education
Gem Benoza, Director of Campaigns
Stacy Palosky, Digital Director of Campaigns
Michael Murray, Health Communications Specialist
Emily D’Iorio, Health Communications Specialist
Tesfa Alexander, Lead Health Scientist
FCB Creative:
Ari Halper, Chief Creative Officer, EVP
Gary Resch, Executive Creative Director, EVP
Liem Nguyen, Creative Director
Justin Chen, Creative Director
James Meiser, Art Director
Cecile Robertshaw, Copywriter
FCB Production:
Stacy Flaum, Executive Producer
Pamela MacGillivray, Business Manager

@DaveGian David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.