Monday, February 23, 2009
Philip Morris Case Study “Think. Don’t Smoke” vs. the Truth Campaign
Comm473: Allison Kershner and Melanie Loomis
In the 1930’s, Edward Bernays revolutionized the way the tobacco industry promoted cigarettes by linking female empowerment with the taboo of women smoking. While promoting for Lucky Strike, he launched a legendary public event by taking beautiful, well known feminists at the time and had them walk the streets of New York City carrying a banner representing freedom, each with a lit cigarette. This widely publicized Easter Day parade event paved the road for the growing tobacco industry to be forced into a whirlwind of constantly evolving methods of releasing advertisements and propaganda to promote tobacco products (Stauber. 1994).
As early as the 1950’s, truth concerning the harmful effects of smoking came to light in magazine articles. Even Bernays said that if he had known the dangerous effects of tobacco, he would not have taken Lucky Strike as his client. It was during this era, the tobacco industry more than doubled its advertising budget to pay for media ads and public relations practitioners. In 1954, The Tobacco Industry Research Council was a necessary formation in order to counter attack such negative health report findings (Stauber. 1994).
In 2005, the Centers for Disease Control published a survey which found that the number of high school students who had smoked cigarettes in the past 30 days was almost one quarter of the population (23 percent). Of those who smoke, the study found that 3,900 smoked a cigarette each morning and that 1,500 of them were regular smokers (Longpre). Smoking is killing nearly 5 million people a year worldwide.
Strategic Planning Behind the Problem:
The tobacco industry continues to receive harsh criticism among public health advocates. A lieu of advertising restrictions and smoking bans have caused the tobacco industry to curtail their past marketing techniques and branch out to find new ones because of the intense research and media coverage on the link between cancer and tobacco.
Just as in the 1950’s, large tobacco companies have been on the run to combat these accusations and they have needed a method of survival in this growing age of around the clock media coverage. To counter attack accusations that they are trying to target young people as a way to maintain revenue, Philip Morris has created the Youth Smoking Prevention Program to educate teenagers and parents about the harmful effects of smoking. Philip Morris originally launched their “Think. Don’t Smoke” campaign in 1998, which was regarded as unsuccessful and viewed by the media as a self-interested attempt at creating brand recognition.
Primary audience: Male and female young people, ages 10 to 14, in the United States who do not smoke and frequently watch television.
Intervening: parents, teachers, coaches, other teenagers and youth serving organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters and the 4H Club.
Moderating: anti-tobacco associations, public health advocates, World Health Organization
Philip Morris launched a “Think. Don’t Smoke” television advertisement campaign targeted towards young people. The commercials began to run in 1998 and continued to do so for years with the same campaign slogan and a renewing $100 million budget. In the “Think. Don’t Smoke” commercials, Philip Morris associated teenagers who chose not to start smoking as being “cool” among their peers. The first television advertisements were run on the Fox, WB, TNT, Cartoon Channel and ABC networks to appeal to youth programming. Additional Youth Smoking Prevention Ads were to run during future Super Bowls.
In 1998, public health advocates from Florida launched a dramatically successful state-wide response campaign attack on the tobacco industry known as Truth campaign. The vastly different messages portrayed in each campaign have produced years of analysis by researchers and the public regarding why the Truth campaign resonated so well among young people in comparison to the Philip Morris campaign. Advertising in the tobacco industry has been an issue that has affected the PR Industry since Edward Bernays in the 1930’s and remains a popular topic to examine regarding the stickiness of certain messages compared to others.
Past and Current Challenges:
In 1998, Philip Morris and other major tobacco companies faced one of their biggest challenges because of the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement. The tobacco companies were forced to pay $325 billion over the next 25 years and restrict their cigarette advertising and marketing. . This lawsuit required the tobacco companies to run their own antismoking ads to help reduce teenage tobacco use. Philip Morris developed a campaign called “Think. Don’t Smoke.” and at the same time, the American Legacy Foundation formed the Truth campaign.
Although the two campaigns were directed at the same teenaged audience, at similar time periods and made efforts to disseminate the same message, the Truth campaign was much more successful in getting kids to reject smoking. In fact, June 2002 article published by the American Journal of Public Health, surveyed teenagers and compared the two campaigns. The study found that those exposed to the Truth campaign were 66 percent less likely to smoke and those who were exposed to the Philip Morris campaign were 36 percent more likely to smoke (Heath).
According to Made to Stick, the Truth campaign ads out preformed the Phillip Morris ads because they were more memorable and they suggested that teens rebel against “The Man” –or Big Tobacco, by choosing not to smoke. In an article about the Philip Morris “Think. Don’t Smoke.” campaign, the author blamed the survey results on a number of factors. "The ads are fuzzy-warm, which could actually generate favorable feelings for the tobacco industry and, by extension, its products. And their theme — that adults should tell young people not to smoke mostly because they are young people — is exactly the sort of message that would make many teenagers feel like lighting up".
The Truth campaigns were so successful that Philip Morris responded by filing a Big Tobacco “anti-vilification” clause which aimed to get the commercials pulled from the air. Carolyn Levy, Philip Morris’s senior vice president for youth-smoking prevention justified the clause by saying, “We felt that [the Truth ads] are not consistent with the focus and mission of the American Legacy Foundation” (Heath). But the courts and research did not agree.
Philip Morris no longer uses the "Think. Don't Smoke." campaign and has begun using a three prong approach. The approach focuses on parent communications, grant programs and youth access prevention. The corporation follows positive youth development theory which emphasizes positive relationships and activities in teen's lives to keep them from smoking. Philip Morris also partakes in ongoing research to evaluate their prevention programs and communications. According to Philip Morris the number of underage smokers in America has steadily decreased since 1998.