Stepping Up the Fight: New Houston Herstek Campaigns Target Smoking Via Humor and Serious Warnings

By David Gianatasio

BOSTON–In its latest installment in Massachusetts’ advertising war on smoking, Houston Herstek Favat has fashioned a one-two punch.

The Boston agency has created two TV campaigns–one humorous, the other with heavier overtones– now breaking throughout the Bay State. ‘If you’re out there with a hard message, you should also be there with a light, loving message,’ said Dr. Greg Connolly, director of the Department of Public Health’s Tobacco Control Program.

One campaign uses striking visuals and somber copy to drive home the health hazards to nonsmokers posed by second-hand smoke.

‘You may not realize it, but second-hand smoke emits thousands of toxic chemicals into the air,’ begins the voiceover for one 30-second spot. ‘Breathe them in and they won’t be in the air. They’ll be in your lungs.’ The names of toxic substances such as nicotine, nickel, arsenic and tar disappear from the screen as if breathed into a pair of lungs.

The campaign includes three 15-second ads with elements like a jar of smoke-ravaged lungs and X-rays that burst into flames.

‘Research shows that you’re making enormous progress if you can convince a smoker that second-hand smoke might hurt a loved one,’ Connolly explained.

The second campaign includes three humorous 30-second commercials. In one, a Marlboro Man type gets his comeuppance for smoking on the range when he drops a lit cigarette into his saddle. Another ad lampoons a classic Twilight Zone episode. Instead of a gremlin taunting an airline passenger, an obnoxious smoker balanced on the wing of a plane gives a nicotine-starved traveler an unpleasant surprise.

Stu Cooperrider wrote the humorous ads with Marc Gallucci handling art direction. Copywriter Maureen Begley and art director Dan Bryant created the more serious executions.

Both campaigns, slated to run through May, will be followed by a new round of ads targeting young smokers, Connolly said.

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