‘Truth’ Is Getting Good Grades

Crispin Porter + Bogusky’s “Truth” anti-smoking campaign is making a big impression among Florida high school and middle school students, according to a new survey.

Researchers at Florida State University in Tallahassee report that 94 percent of 12- to 17- year-olds interviewed in the survey were aware of the Miami’s agency’s edgy campaign, now in its third year.

Nearly two-thirds of the more than 1,800 students polled claimed that the campaign’s television advertising, once decried by some skeptics, prompted a reevaluation of their perceptions about smoking.

Another third reported the spots, crafted to trigger a “counter-revolution” against the free-spirited, rebel image projected by tobacco industry advertising, resulted in discussion among their peers.

Early on, research convinced Crispin creative director Alex Bogusky that the health risks associated with smoking were well-known by teenagers, and, in fact, were counterproductive to anti-tobacco efforts.

“The reality is tobacco companies know health is not an issue,” Bogusky said. “The fact that smoking is bad for you makes cigarettes a good teen product. It allows a teenager to say, ‘I’m in control of my life.’ Literally.”

The challenge, he said, was to drive home the notion that smoking is not rebellion.

“We wanted to explain that it’s heavily marketed, that your parents and grandparents bought into it.” Bogusky said. “Now you’re buying a concept and product Big Business wants to sell. We had to create rebellion around the ‘Truth’ brand: If you want to rebel, here’s something else, a brand about something else.”

The advertising is effective. Ac-cording to the Florida Anti-tobacco Media Evaluation (FAME) survey, smoking has declined 29 percent among 16-year-olds during the campaign. The results were compiled by FAME researchers across demographic lines.

“The edgy humor and rebelliousness against Big Tobacco’s marketing tactics appears to have worked with teens,” said FSU professor Dr. David Sly, the senior media evaluation consultant for the federal government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Sly also indicated emerging evidence that tobacco industry advertising is triggering a backlash against the sponsors.

“Truth” is funded by an $11.3 billion settlement reached between the state and Big Tobacco in 1997.