The best idea I’ve seen in Australia so far

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William Burroughs once called heroin “the ideal product… the ultimate merchandise. No sales talk necessary. The client will crawl through a sewer and beg to buy.” In a way, his words could apply to cigarettes. I think smoking is bloody stupid but, as an ex-smoker, I understand that it’s an addiction. I do, however, reserve a special hatred for cigarette companies: pure evil fuckers whose entire reason for being is to make money out of getting people to kill themselves.

I’ve worked on anti-smoking campaigns for about a decade. I’ve tried all kinds of angles, including the surprise factor, an inspirational tone, appealing to teenagers’ vanity and LOLZ – with varying degrees of success. The starting point for everything I’ve ever done is that smokers don’t want to hear what we have to say, so I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about ways to smuggle the message onto their radar.

While in the UK we can’t even get plain packaging through because the Tory government is tucked up cosily in bed with the tobacco companies, in Australia that’s not the case. They don’t have plain packs over here, they’ve further: every pack is plastered with terrifying pictures of the results of smoking-related disease. And I don’t mean there’s a little picture like on packs in the UK – I mean all space on all packs is covered with rotting teeth/busted lungs/amputated limbs/people dying of cancer and the associated health warnings. The packs are usually kept in a closed cupboard but when the door is opened, as you can see above, the shelves are a grim display of fucked-up body parts. The imagery is a long way from the rugged independence of the Malboro Man or the sexily oblique intelligence of the Silk Cut campaign. And the ‘branding’ is limited to the name of the brand in a small, plain font.

I know from my previous work in this area that the shock/fear factor has limited effect. However, the Aussie initiative is working on two levels: it’s massively reducing the ‘cool factor’ around smoking while simultaneously landing the truth about cigarettes in simple words and pictures. In addition, the Aussies – who already have the second highest cigarette prices in the world – have pledged to raise the tax on cigarettes by 12.5% every year for the next five years. Great work, Australian government. Fuck smoking, fuck cancer, fuck the tobacco industry.

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About antmelder
Creative Partner at DDB Sydney; passionate vegetarian; lover of books, boxing and Bruce Springsteen.

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