E.B. Lane Creates Cold Turkey Anti-Mascot

LOS ANGELES The first ad in a five-spot anti-smoking campaign broke yesterday for the Arizona Department of Health Services.

The commercials, created by E.B. Lane Marketing Communications, star a comedian clad in an elaborate turkey suit–including a scarf and earmuffs suggesting his coldness–who gives numbered hints on how to quit smoking. In other spots he jogs, short-winded, with newly invigorated runners; and takes healthy breaks with office workers and housewives experiencing cravings and depression. The remaining spots in the $1.6 million push gradually break in the coming weeks, with an emphasis on Thanksgiving, and run through March.

The campaign’s creative aims at countering the category’s recently berating, moralistic tone. “We had an internal focus group where we showed a hundred anti-smoking commercials from around the country, and it is was like watching Freddy vs. Jason,” said Michael Pitzer, executive creative director at E.B. Lane, Phoenix. “So many campaigns leave you saying, ‘I can’t believe I just watched that.’ They’ve conditioned Americans into not really seeing them. We developed this friendly mnemonic icon so that people could relate to him. In a sense we are returning to the kind of mascot that got people to start smoking in the first place.”

The campaign increases in abstraction until one simply shows the cold turkey on a desert trail at sunset, conceding defeat to a jogger ahead of him. Another spot has the mascot, alone, furtively taking advantage of a turkey crossing on a highway. “The first spot is the best way of understanding the campaign,” said Mark Itkowitz, associate creative director. “The spots say you don’t have to quit cold turkey alone, that there’s help available.”

Itkowitz said the agency reviewed more than 50 stand-up comics in Los Angeles before finding one that brought “the right tonality to the role, not preachy, and likeable.”

The cold turkey spots reflect increased activity at the agency, Itkowitz said, putting $1.5 million worth of production work through the shop in the last 10 weeks and moving some clients from print to TV.

The spots comprise part of a $7.5 million program that is sponsored by Arizona’s tobacco tax and voter-protected from diversion to the general fund, said Cathy Bischoff, office chief of the anti-tobacco program. “We especially want the ads to communicate our site, gocoldturkey.com, because we’ve concluded that we have services that no one wanted to call,” she said, referring to the state’s nicotine replacement services, classes and free counselors, who men were especially reluctant to contact. “So we’re not asking them to call us anymore. We’re giving them help in the ads themselves.”