Arnold, Legacy Get Back to Work

NEW YORK The American Legacy Foundation is launching a new “Truth” anti-smoking campaign next week that asks real people if they “have what it takes” to be tobacco executives.

The effort, created by Havas’ Arnold in Boston, puts actual job seekers in hidden-camera interview situations where they are asked how they would handle the pressures of tobacco-industry decision-making.

The push kicks off with TV spots breaking June 1 and includes a cinema spot, Web films, print, interactive ads and a Web site that extends the interview concept with quizzes teens can take and share. The client spends about $40 million annually in measured media.

John Kearse, svp, cd at Arnold, said the campaign is something of a social experiment. “We thought, when so many people are out of work, in the worst economy since 1936, wouldn’t it be interesting to see if people can do the things that tobacco executives have to do in their daily lives, that define their jobs,” he said.

Eric Asche, svp, marketing at Legacy, noted that “Truth” has relied on real people for much of its work over the past 10 years and continues to look for inventive ways to hold teen attention. When put through qualitative testing, he said, this campaign concept most piqued teen’s interest. “We saw teens from all walks of life pause and reflect on what they saw,” he said. “We knew we were hitting a chord.”

In one spot, a job candidate is asked if he has ever had to spin bad news and what he would do if an article came out that said the company’s product “could potentially kill 1 billion people this century. What could you do with that?” The job seeker, after a long pause, asks: “What is that, like 17 percent of the world’s population?” The spot ends with a shot of a faceless mannequin in a business suit and the question, “Do you have what it takes to be a tobacco executive?”

A second ad discusses the ability to “plead the fifth,” and a third, appearing only in cinemas, finds a candidate disgusted by the fact that the interviewer proudly showed off the industry’s $13 billion domestic marketing investment for a product that “kills 5 million annually.”

The commercials, directed by Henry-Alex Rubin of Smuggler, were filmed in a Manhattan office, and outtakes from the shoot will be available on the “Truth” site and YouTube. To ensure that participants, lured by a fake recruiter’s ad on Craig’s List, did not leave pissed off about the faux job interviews, the agency had two real recruiters on site. “All the interviewees were pretty happy about that,” said Kearse.