Work Aims to Prevent Underage Smoking

ATLANTA In its new broadcast campaign for the Virginia Tobacco Settlement Foundation breaking on Monday, Work answers the question, “Can anybody tell us why smoking isn’t stupid?”

The effort targets youth ages 10-17, letting “tweens” and teens illustrate why smoking is uncool, according to the Richmond, Va., agency.

“Buttman,” a not-so-superhero, is the star of three television commercials that illustrate the ill effects of smoking. Because he smokes, Buttman is weak, has no money and is dirty, smelly and unpopular. In another spot called “Lick,” a teen girl goes about her day licking objects she comes across, such as her cat, a garbage can and a car, on her way to school. The commercial concludes by asking, “Isn’t smoking just as disgusting?”

After conducting research to develop an effective method to curb underage smoking, Work set out to create ads that would appeal to the target audience and change their perception of the habit. “The most powerful thing is to make kids feel a part of the project,” said Cabell Harris, agency president and executive creative director. “This campaign is for kids and should feel like it’s by kids.”

The new campaign is a continuation of a marketing and advertising program initiated in 2000, when the VTSF board of trustees approved an annual budget of $9 million. In 2001, Work was awarded a three-year contract to launch the foundation’s statewide effort to prevent underage tobacco use.

Research revealed that a 59 percent awareness level was achieved within six months of the state program’s launch. Virginia is the first tobacco-producing state to take such a stand against teen smoking.

Instead of taking the authoritative role and stating why tobacco usage is a bad idea, Work’s ads allow youth to formulate their own reasons to refrain from smoking. “We want to start a change in culture,” said Harris. “It’s important to catch people before they start smoking, usually before age 18. Then, maybe they won’t start.”

Radio executions feature nonprofessional voice talent who recorded Work scripts in their own style, the agency said. The spots, entitled “My Boyfriend Al,” “Yellow Teeth,” “Tobacco Queen,” “Why Would You Ever Smoke” and “Smelling Stuff,” are tagged with a call to action, urging youth to visit the Web site,, for further information.