Premiering during this year’s VMAs, The American Legacy Foundation’s newest anti-smoking ad campaign packed a punch aimed at big tobacco companies, as well as a thought-provoking message for millions of young viewers.
This 30-second #FinishIt commercial is part of Legacy’s ongoing “Truth” Campaign, which has been running anti-tobacco PSAs and ads in print, television, and radio since 2000. The term “Finish It” refers to teenage smoking rates dropping to 9 percent, which is 23 percent less than when Legacy first launch its now-famous campaign.
The rapid-fire ad flashes images of celebrities (typically those perceived as unintelligent, trashy, or wild partiers) smoking cigarettes. There was a great mix of famous people whom Gen Y/millennials deem unpopular or unintelligent (such as Kirsten Stewart, Chris Brown, and Lindsay Lohan) as well as “cool” celebrities (such as Rihanna and Orlando Bloom) caught looking grimy and unfocused.
I loved the blunt copy, which called out the “free marketing” smoking celebrities give to tobacco companies. I thought this was a brilliant way to make all the celebrities seem like foolish pawns to corporations. Simultaneously, the ad invoked TV viewers to make their own choice on whether they also want to give tobacco bigwigs “free” advertising.
Legacy CEO Robin Koval, summed up the ad’s ultimate message: “We created the ‘Finish It’ campaign to empower teens to make the fight against tobacco use their own. We want to remind them that their generation has the power to accelerate the decline in youth smoking and even end it for good.”
Interestingly, the legacy campaign made a follow-up ad that appeared in the next commercial break following the above #FinishIt ad above. I thought this ad did a fantastic job of explaining that this ad wasn’t meant to personally bash the smoking celebrities, rather it was to attack the perception of smoking as something”cool” and the big tobacco companies that want young people to believe that smoking will make them seem interesting and rebellious.
While I was impressed by Legacy’s marketing and advertising tactics, a look at their Facebook page reveals that some VMA viewers were unhappy with ad campaign’s portrayal of smoking celebrities. The viewers mostly complained that the commercial was ironically giving big tobacco companies even more publicity by showing these celebrities smoking (despite UNPAID TOBACCO SPOKESPERSON being plastered across their face).
I personally do not think that the Legacy ad was being counterproductive in their aggressive tactics, though I do understand the danger of showing this ad to a young child that doesn’t understand the “free marketing” angle.
What’s your opinion on the two #FinishIT commercial spots? Do you think the ad has an effective call-to-action to young people to make a choice not to smoke? Do you think the ad is ultimately self-defeating because it keeps showing pictures of celebrities smoking? Do you think that the “Truth” campaign is better off with their shocking ads depicting people with severe cigarette-related health problems? Share you thoughts!