The cancer of advertising "creativity"
Image source: GIPHY (https://gph.is/1K3S5JV)
I hate those "public service" print ads that purport to encourage smokers to quit the habit.
The ones that simply state the obvious, but in a Goldbergian manner.
Inevitably, these arty ads feature artistic paeans to ugliness, with the exception of a morbid statistic or two.
By the way, it is a rare anti-smoking ad indeed that makes room for some sort of a call to action.
Why do such ads get created and approved in the first place?
Reason #1: The client or their business/employer pays the bills.
The people behind such ads risk nothing, except maybe their reputation for "creativity"—a misunderstood term that seduces even the most experienced of advertising practitioners to indulge in orgies of 'irrelevant creative brilliance' (Ogilvy).
Reason #2: Advertising illiteracy, the tyranny of technology, and plain indifference.
No wonder the gap continues to widen between the creators & approvers of much of advertising today and the individuals at the receiving end of the advertising clutter.
Smoking is a serious addiction, and comparable to or worse than the hold that some illicit drugs have.
The anti-smoking ad that genuinely cares about smokers must do something more than simply appeal to their sense of curiosity and aesthetic drive.
It must show them how they can quit the habit.
The ad can usher the smoker into the ad with the aid of, say, the Fagerström Test for Nicotine Dependence.
Then, instead of visual platitudes, the ad can proffer some smoking cessation methods, such as:
Proof supporting the effectiveness of the methods recommended must also be provided.
The ad can conclude with a useful call to action.
A variation can lead with a well-known individual (e.g. celebrity, royalty, music/movie star) challenging the reader to join them in quitting the habit in X weeks.
Social media, phone messaging and e-mail can be used to reinforce the association, build a community, track progress, and ensure cessation success in as many cases as possible.
Such campaigns require a lot of groundwork.
But the resulting earned media could be well worth the effort.
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My name is Benedict Paul. I've been writing copy (and learning the craft) since 1995.