Marketing Campaign Case Studies

Friday, February 15, 2008


In 1998, 46 state attorneys general reached a settlement with tobacco companies, which included an agreement to fund a five-year, $1.5 billion, national teen antismoking campaign under the auspices of a new nonprofit corporation, the Washington, D.C.–based American Legacy Foundation. The state of Florida also used some of the money it received from the settlement to launch a local teen antismoking campaign called ‘‘Truth.’’ It was so successful that the foundation took it national in 2000.
‘‘Truth,’’ created by Miami-based advertising agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky and Boston-based Arnold Worldwide, was a multifaceted campaign heavily influenced by the input provided by annual youth summits and a youth review board, which provided feedback and suggestions. Rather than taking a ‘‘just say no’’ approach that would likely prove counterproductive, the marketers tried to channel youths’ natural rebelliousness by directing it against the practices of the tobacco companies. The television commercials were confrontational and controversial, as well as a call to action. One spot, for example, showed teens delivering hundreds of stuffed body bags to the New York headquarters of Philip Morris, representing the deaths they said the company was responsible for. The campaign also marketed ‘‘Truth’’ like any other youth product, advertising in the type of magazines teens read, as well as touring the country in vans, showing up at beaches, skate parks, and other hangouts to give away free gear and ‘‘Infect Truth’’ viral kits so that youths could engage in their own guerrilla marketing efforts.
The ‘‘Truth’’ campaign was a highly successful campaign, playing a major role in a significant decrease in teen smoking. Although the loss of funding from tobacco companies after five years resulted in budget cuts, the campaign was able to carry on. ‘‘Truth’’ was also recognized by the advertising industry, which presented the campaign with a number of celebrated awards.

Although people speculated about the health risks of using tobacco, it wasn’t until the twentieth century that the issue was addressed scientifically. As early as 1930 German researchers drew a statistical correlation between smoking and cancer. Despite warning about the dangers of smoking, the American Cancer Society circa World War II still relied on the disclaimer that ‘‘no definite evidence exists’’ to tie smoking with lung cancer. A turning point in the public debate about smoking came in 1952 when Reader’s Digest published ‘‘Cancer by the Carton,’’ an article that brought the dangers of smoking to a mass audience and led to other periodicals addressing the subject, as well as a decline in cigarette sales for the first time in a generation. The tobacco industry responded by forming the Tobacco Industry Research Council, little more than a public relations ploy, and also began producing ‘‘healthier’’ cigarettes with better filters and low-tar formulations. Sales rebounded. Then in 1964, at a time when nearly half of adult Americans smoked, U.S. Surgeon General Luther Terry issued a report, Smoking and Health, which concluded that cigarette smoking was causally related to lung cancer in men, and the data for women pointed ‘‘in the same direction.’’ From the time of Luther’s report, the tobacco industry came under siege. A year later Congress passed the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act, requiring that every cigarette package carry the surgeon general’s warning. Cigarette consumption dropped as did the number of smokers, but the industry brought out a new generation of healthier cigarettes, which forced people to smoke more to receive their daily nicotine fix and as a result led to even greater sales. In the late 1960s the first national antitobacco ad campaign was launched and proved so effective that the tobacco industry was forced to take notice. Because antismoking advocates were gaining equal time from broadcasters, the companies in 1971 elected to pull all radio and television ads as a way to prevent a deluge of antismoking public service messages.
Tobacco companies continued to fight a rear-guard action against the scientific evidence that linked smoking to cancer as well as heart disease and emphysema. While enjoying some success in the political arena, where it could count on the support of senators and congressmen from tobacco-growing states, the tobacco industry was unable to fend off the assaults in the courts from state attorneys general. In 1998 the industry agreed to a settlement worth almost $250 billion with state attorneys general—this after the U.S. Senate had killed a comprehensive tobacco bill and undercut the leverage of the attorneys general.
As part of the $206 billion 1998 master settlement agreement, the tobacco companies agreed to fund a new nonprofit corporation, the Washington, D.C.–based American Legacy Foundation, in a five-year, $1.5 billion, national teen antismoking campaign. To receive the money, however, the foundation had to agree not to vilify the industry, a condition that would soon become controversial. Florida, drawing on its $11.3 billion portion of the settlement, provided $200 million to the Florida Department of Health, to become one of the first states to establish its own teen antismoking campaign. Miami-based advertising agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky landed the account and launched the ‘‘Truth’’ campaign, which was heavily influenced by teen input. It proved so effective that in 2000 the American Legacy Foundation decided to take ‘‘Truth’’ national.

The ‘‘Truth’’ campaign targeted youths between the ages of 12 and 17, television’s ‘‘golden demographic.’’ It was also a pivotal time of life when people are especially susceptible to the allures of smoking. While adult smoking declined at a steady rate after the 1970s, teen smoking increased just as steadily. According to a federally funded study in 1991, more than 25 percent of high school students nationwide were smokers. By 1997 that number reached 36.4 percent. As Florida prepared to launch the original ‘‘Truth’’ campaign, it determined that 27.4 percent of its high school students had used tobacco in the past 30 days. Among middle school students that percentage was 18.5 percent. Marketing to this demographic was tricky, however. As Alex Bogusky of Crispin Porter + Bogusky explained to Alison Sloane Gaylin of Shoot, ‘‘You didn’t have to do too much research to find out that typical PSAs [public service announcements], with the ‘say no’ approach, would actually increase the prevalence of tobacco usage among teen because it makes [smoking] more alluring. Tobacco use is tied into rebellion. It would just make it more of a rebellious act.’’ As a result the marketers relied on teens themselves to help drive the direction of the ‘‘Truth’’ campaign.

Although individual states and such organizations as the American Lung Association also ran teen antismoking campaigns, they were pursuing the same goal and hardly in competition with the American Legacy Foundation.
Rather, all of them faced common adversaries: the tobacco companies and the media that often glamorized smoking. Big tobacco may have been barred from radio and television, but it still spent more than $5 billion each year on advertising. It also spent money on its own teen antismoking efforts. Philip Morris USA, for example, funded its own campaign at the same time the ‘‘Truth’’ campaign was going national. Called ‘‘Think. Don’t Smoke,’’ the $100-million-per-year effort took a more traditional approach than the confrontational ‘‘Truth’’ campaign. The Philip Morris ads preached to its audience, which as Bogusky had noted was more likely to make teens interested in smoking. Moreover the ads were somewhat self-congratulatory. Lyndon Haviland, chief operating officer of the American Legacy Foundation, told Lynn Porter, writing for the Tampa Tribune, that the ‘‘Think. Don’t Smoke’’ campaign ‘‘makes teens more likely to feel good about Philip Morris and more likely to feel good about the tobacco industry in general.’’ The American Legacy Foundation
‘‘Truth’’ campaign, on the other hand, gained much of its power by casting tobacco companies as the villains.

Crispin Porter + Bogusky had never been involved in social marketing before, so it was not surprising that the agency, as it prepared to make its pitch to Florida officials to win the account, would draw on its experience in youth marketing—to sell the product of ‘‘not smoking’’ in the same way it did for other clients at the time (a basketball shoe company, a fast-food restaurant, and a bicycle company). First it conducted research where members of the target market felt comfortable and likely to be uninhibited in giving their answers, such as skate parks and shopping malls. The agency also analyzed successful new product launches to the teen market by Sega, Nintendo, Mountain Dew, and youth fashion brands like Vans, Skechers, and JNCO. As a result the marketing plan would go far beyond television spots to include promotional tours and a magazine that was to be distributed in record stores and surf shops. Most importantly the agency decided to channel teens’ natural rebelliousness against tobacco companies. Research indicated that a large number of teens thought that farmers made cigarettes; the campaign would seek to disabuse them of that notion, teach them how tobacco companies operated, and transform them into an army of teens demanding straight answers from big tobacco. The campaign pitched by Crispin Porter + Bogusky to Florida was initially called ‘‘Rage.’’ The agency won the account, changed the campaign’s title to ‘‘Truth,’’ and convened a summit of 500 young people and a youth review board to provide feedback and guide the creative process. Over the course of two years the Florida program succeeded in cutting middle school cigarette consumption in half and lowering high school consumption by a fifth. The American Legacy Foundation decided to expand the ‘‘Truth’’ campaign to go national in 2000. Crispin Porter + Bogusky teamed up with Boston-based Arnold Worldwide and public relations firms to form an alliance to handle the $185 million account. The first two television spots were quick to create controversy. In one a woman, in the style of confrontational filmmaker Michael Moore, entered Philip Morris’s New York headquarters in an attempt to deliver a lie detector and get at the truth about nicotine addiction. The other spot featured teenagers unloading body bags outside of Philip Morris’s headquarters. The company complained that the ads defied the vilification provision of the 1998 settlement agreement. Threatened with losing its funding, the foundation withdrew the ads. Four other spots portrayed common consumer products, such as soda or athletic footwear, as if they were as dangerous as tobacco. Each relied on the same voice-over, saying, ‘‘There is only one product that actually kills a third of the people who use it. Tobacco.’’ The television networks initially refused to run the spots but soon gave in. Later in 2000 the ‘‘Truth’’ campaign revisited the use of body bags in a series of five new commercials developed to break during the Olympics. One of them spoofed the Marlboro Man by strapping a body bag onto a horse, which then rode off into the sunset as a teen yelled, ‘‘Go be a cowboy.’’ Another showed youths tossing body bags out of an airplane while shouting, ‘‘Hey, tobacco! Advertise this! . . . Taste the adventure.’’
Building on the success of the first year, the marketers added an important element to the campaign in 2001, launching the Outbreak Tour, a counterpoint to how tobacco companies promoted their products. In 2000 the campaign had used an RV to tour 27 markets in six weeks to present the ‘‘Truth’’ message. The Outbreak Tour used 10 orange vans and three Lincoln Navigators rigged with deejay turntables, video monitors, Sega video games, Internet access, and lounge chairs. More importantly, perhaps, they were staffed with ‘‘ambassadors,’’ including a variety of rappers, ravers, graffiti artists, skateboarders, musicians, fashion designers, and ex-smokers who could effectively carry the no-smoking message to the target audience. Over the summer the tour hit 158 cities, visiting beaches, skate parks, concerts, and anywhere else young people might congregate. The tour also attracted its own audience by staging concerts and martial-arts demonstrations and hosting graffiti-art galleries. The ambassadors handed out T-shirts, bandannas, hats, and ‘‘Infect Truth’’ viral kits containing stickers and stencils so teens could engage in their own guerrilla marketing efforts. In addition to the Outbreak Tour, grassroots marketing was encouraged by print ads with removable ‘‘Truth’’ stencils that appeared in summer editions of such magazines as Mass Appeal, Snowboarder, Vibe, and Teen People.

Marlboro, the best-selling cigarette in the world since 1972, was introduced by Philip Morris in the early 1900s as one of the first cigarettes aimed at women. It featured a red tip to hide lipstick marks but failed to catch on. It was reintroduced in 1924, still targeting women, with the slogan ‘‘Mild as May.’’ Thirty years later Chicago ad agency Leo Burnett took over the brand, which at the time had less than 1 percent of the market. The new campaign featured Marlboro Men, which over the next decade included athletes and sailors in addition to cowboys. In 1963 Marlboro began using cowboys exclusively and a year later launched the ‘‘Marlboro Country’’ campaign: ‘‘Come to where the flavor is. Come to Marlboro Country.’’ Sales began to grow at a 10 percent clip each year until Marlboro eclipsed Winston as America’s top-selling brand and soon conquered the world. Dozens of men would portray the Marlboro Man in television and print ads over the decades. Two of them, Wayne McLaren and David McLean, died of lung cancer.

‘‘Truth’’ received immediate acclaim and was named Best Campaign of 2000 by Adweek. The magazine noted, ‘‘Approaching ‘truth’ as a brand like Marlboro or Camel, the umbrella campaign is a guerrilla-style war that attacks on multiple, psychological levels and, literally, takes its message to the streets.’’ Some of the television spots, such as when teens piled stuffed body bags around the Philip Morris headquarters, crossed over from TV spot to live protest, providing a dynamic, energizing element to ‘‘Truth.’’
The ‘‘Truth’’ campaign received its last payment from the tobacco settlement in 2003, forcing the American Legacy Foundation to slash its budget from $160 million a year to $40 million a year. Regardless, ‘‘Truth’’ was a success on every level. The most important measure was the rate of teenage smoking. According to research published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2005, between 2000 and 2002 the number of young people between the ages of 12 and 17 who smoked decreased from 28.8 percent to 18 percent. An estimated 300,000 fewer teens took up smoking during that period. Tobacco companies also contributed to the decline by raising their prices to offset settlement costs. Without doubt the price of cigarettes was a major influencing factor on whether young people smoked or not, but the impact of the ‘‘Truth’’ campaign was not to be discounted. It was also recognized by the advertising industry. In addition to being named Adweek ’s Best Campaign of 2000, ‘‘Truth’’ won best of show at the annual awards given to New England ad agencies, sponsored by the Boston Idea Group. In 2005 ‘‘Truth’’ tied for the highest honor, the Grand EFFIE, at the prestigious annual EFFIE Awards, administered by the New York chapter of the American Marketing Association.

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