Crossover Warns Blacks About Menthol Smokes

SAN FRANCISCO Crossover Creative is using stark imagery to educate black smokers about the unique dangers of menthol cigarettes.

The outdoor and print campaign for the California Department of Health Services’ Tobacco Control Section broke this month and features provocative billboards and bus transit posters showing an open menthol cigarette box filled with what appear to be dead black smokers instead of cigarettes. The copy reads: “Dying for a menthol?” and “Menthol smokes people.”

Statistics show that of the 45,000 African Americans who die annually from smoking-related illnesses, most smoke menthols. The cigarettes are usually advertised as cool and refreshing because of the taste, said Crossover creative director Steve Climons.

The ads are the creation of Climons, copywriter Terri Murray and photographer Sven Widerholt. Adspend was undisclosed. The California Department of Health as a whole spent $28 million on advertising in 2004, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

Crossover, based in Richmond, Calif., is an independent agency that bills itself as an urban, multicultural shop that bridges the gap between general-market advertising and the Hispanic, African American and Asian American markets.

Crossover has also done work for McDonald’s, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and Safeway Stores, among other clients.