Big Tobacco's Lies & PR - Creatively!
Please find below an impressive collection of humorous, hard-hitting,
innovative and inspiring counter-advertising examples and ideas from around
There is something for everyone here. A wide array of superb parodies
of tobacco ads. A "death clock" billboard (Pakistan). An adaption
of a popular 60's folk-rock song with some new "killer" lyrics.
Grassroots sticker campaigns (Sri Lanka). A radio interview with a famous
British actress (Uganda). A couple of super-duper radio Public Service
Announcements (USA). And a new web video mocking Philip Morris's name
Counter-advertising, when hard-hitting and used strategically, can effectively
expose the tobacco industry's lies, raise public support for stronger
tobacco control measures, encourage smokers to quit, and discourage young
people from lighting up.
As you read through these examples, note how some groups have used various
media channels to maximize the impact of their counter-advertising campaigns
-- at little or no cost.
WORLDWIDE TOUR OF TOBACCO COUNTER-ADVERTISING
CANADA - Heidi
Rathjen, Coalition Quebecoise pour le Controle du Tabac
These were done by "Guerilla Media" groups in Vancouver and
Montreal. The Montreal group used Vancouver's artwork and adapted it to
protest the tobacco sponsorship of the Montreal Jazz Festival (by du Maurier
cigarettes) in 1997: Originals
I also picked up these off the
internet (from http://www.worldsfastestclown.com
Passport to Death" , "Think
Suicide" , "Find
Your Voice Box!"
- Eva Kralikova, Charles University of Prague
during pregnancy and breast-feeding seriously harms the baby"
MAURITIUS - Veronique
Le Clezio, ViSa
For the purpose of antismoking lessons that I give in schools and community
centers, I have created about 400 visuals among which I choose about 25
to 30 each time for display while I am giving the conference. I spend
approximately 1 or 2 minutes on each visual aid. These visuals are very
convenient because they are easily carried anywhere for demonstration.
The images that are the most successful are:
"Marlboro Adventure" series - I ask the public to participate
and to count the cowboys in each ad: 4-3-2-1-0...But where have they
gone? - Dead- How? - By smoking cigarettes - OK, but where are their
horses? -Dead - How? - By passive smoking. And the sad story of Wayne
McLaren, the Marlboro Man...
2. The same sort of sequence with 3 pictures of the Marlboro Cowboy
inviting us to live the Adventure. Let us live "the adventure"
with the handsome cowboy: (i) A beautiful ad of
Marlboro Man, with his white hat, lighting a cigarette. Very attractive.
(ii) Here is the adventure itself: the picture of a middle-aged man,
not so good looking, all wrinkled and tired, with the same white cow-boy
hat and a cigarette. (The seduction doesn't last long with smoking and
nicotine is addictive) (iii) And now "The End of Adventure":
A grinning skull with the white hat and a cigarette. The public used
to burst out laughing at the second and the third image!
In Mauritius, many retailers shops are being sponsored by BAT for the
painting of the outer walls of the building with the colours of the very
popular 'Matinée' brand of cigarettes: Yellow and brown, with a
red stripe, so that the shop looks like a gigantic subliminal 3D 'Matinée'
pack. ViSa has borrowed the same colour coding to mock BAT. The leaflets
on Passive Smoking issued for the 31st May 2000 are presented in these
Thousands of stickers
which look like 'Matinée' pack's front have been distributed, with
a message printed in the same policy of characters: "Nicotine - a
drug - Criminal Industry - "Don't let cigarettes destroy your life"
A prominent illegal
advertising that is still present, in spite of the Public Health Act
is "Benson and Hedges" brand name. ViSa copied the character
font to say "BRONCHITIS & HEARTDISEASES".
Ehsan Latif, Tobacco Free Initiative
Tobacco Free Initiative Pakistan (TFI-Pak) launched the first
Anti-Tobacco billboard in Pakistan on the 16th of February 2002. It
has been placed at a busy intersection of the city of Rawalpindi and carries
a death clock that counts the number of deaths due to smoking since Jan
2001. We created a media event around it keeping in view the coming rounds
of FCTC in Geneva and invited the WHO rep in Pakistan for its launching
ceremony held on the same date. The event received good media coverage
and highlighted the need for anti-tobacco legislations in Pakistan including
a total ban on tobacco promotion. The billboard is in Urdu and essentially
says Tobacco kills a smoker every eight seconds Who
is responsible? with the death clock in the middle.
SRI LANKA - Pamodinee
Wijayanayake, Alcohol And Drug Information Center
There are many examples of counter advertising available in the Sri Lankan
community. Some of them are as follows:
& Weak: Be Impotent (parody of B & H)
a nonsmoker and taste the difference!
Similarities have been
drawn between the CTC (Ceylon Tobacco Company) and the LTTE (the Tamil
Tiger Terrorist group in Sri Lanka). There were posters in the comminity
"We do not recruit or target children" LTTE
"We do not recruit or target children" CTC
Therefore CTC = LTTE
stickers making fun of the John Player logo became very popular and at
that time all smokers were nicknamed "Poor John". In some areas
the joke still continues.
In certain areas
of the island young people have been known to perform street dramas at
which time the tobacco company was ridiculed and their strategies exposed.
UGANDA - Angelo
Izama, Monitor FM
In February we had our most famous guest yet: British actress Emma Thompson,
who was in the country as a goodwill ambassador on HIV/AIDS issues. While
appearing on the Smoke Free Eye Opener she said that she had lost her
own father to smoking related illness at the early age of 56, and sent
out this message to our Ugandan listeners about smoking "love your
body, don't smoke." Photo
of Angelo and Emma
URUGUAY - Adriana
Menéndez, Tobacco Control Commission, Uruguayan Medical Syndicate
Here are a few responses from some co-workers:
1. To an inconsiderate smoker: Cigarette smoke is the byproduct of a your
pleasure. It contaminates the air, my hair, my clothes and my lungs. I
also have a pleasure; I like beer. The byproduct of my pleasure is urine.
How would you like it if I urinated on your head??? Then, don't smoke
2. Description of original drawing: figure of a skeleton slouched forward
and smoking, with ash piling up in front of him. Text: Smoking...makes
3. Image of 2 small angels in a celestial sky, saying "if you smoke,
there's a place here reserved for you."
Read original Spanish
USA - CA -
Amalia Fernandez-Niewendorp, Polaris Research and Development, Inc.
Remember the PM ads about the guy bringing a little old lady food and
singing her old Italian songs? Well, how about an ad that shows the "nice"
guy bringing granny a new oxygen tank to replace her used one? Or, maybe
a tobacco "suit" talking about the fact that in the long run
smokers will save society money by dying early, saving society the cost
of keeping and taking care of them in their old age! I still can't believe
they actually released a statement like that.
USA - DC - Campaign
for Tobacco Free Kids
Philip Morris thinks they can change their image by changing their name.
They think they can give big campaign contributions to the Washington
politicians and get whatever they want. For decades, the tobacco companies
targeted youth and covered it up. They knew that cigarettes and
other tobacco products were addictive and caused deadly diseases such
as lung cancer and heart disease. They covered that up, too. Now they
are tying to cover up a bad reputation with a new name. How far do you
think the tobacco industry will go to change its image? Watch this video
mocking Philip Morris and find out: http://www.PhilipMorrisCantHide.org.
USA - FL - Arthur
Pitchenik, University of Miami School of Medicine
Go to our website http://www.mededu.miami.edu/Tobacco,
main menu, click on "interactive CD ROM-1," click on "Audiovisual
Presentations," click on "C. Analysis of Tobacco ADS and Counterads"
and what comes up are original multiple (about 100) audiovisual counterads
to most of the common cigarette Ads. The presentations are conducted by
kids and many were created by kids. (This requires a rapid internet connection
to avoid long downloading times). The counterads are so graphic, they
convey the message even without the audio which is in English. Also, the
much shorter Introduction on the main menu of our website contains counterads
and this does not require a rapid internet connection for reasonable downloading
USA - MA -
G inny Rego, Positively Youth
1) There are four galleries of counter-advertisements at http://www.badvertising.org.
Here are two examples:
counter ad has a picture of cigarettes in a coffin with the message:
"New Crush Proof Box"
A Joe Camel counter
ad has Joe Camel dressed in a black hooded robe with a pack of cigarettes
in one hand and an scythe in the other with a message saying: "Smooth
2) Joe Camel
as a cancer patient, in contrary to what he usually represents in
cigarette ads, he is not cool, but dying.
3) There was a counter ad that had pictures of household poisonous cleaning
products (whose ingredients are also in cigarettes) with the question:
"Would you put this in your body?"
USA - NH - Dana
Mitchell, Dover Youth 2 Youth
The Dover Youth to Youth group began writing and recording their own radio
Public Service Announcements (PSAs) in 1996. Since then they have recorded
22 anti-tobacco PSAs at a local radio sation's production studio. The
students first come up with a core idea for a PSA. A script is developed
and refined arround a strategy (ie. health-based, social disapproval,
or TRUTH-style industry manipulation ads) by which the target audience
will be influenced. The script is then refined and adjusted so that it
is just under either 30 or 60 seconds. Then roles are assigned to the
parts, the team of students practices until they are sick of it, and then
an appointment is made to record it in the studio. The students have won
awards from the New Hampshire Broadcasters Association for best PSA in
3 of the last 6 years and won a National award from the CDC in its 2000
Truth Unfiltered Media Contest for the best radio PSA by high school students.
Read the text of two PSAs:
rewrote the words to a 60's folk-rock protest song called Eve of Destruction.
It became Eve of Addiction. It was recorded in a local studio and
sung by my students, accompanied by a professional guitar player. Listen
to the song
Other sources of counter-advertisements:
AUSTRALIA - Simon
Chapman's Tobacco Control Supersite
Includes controversial Hong Kong ad with image of two upright smoking
cigarettes (visual allusion to WTC towers) and text "No More Killing";
take-offs on "Altria"; and lots of impotence-related posters
Global Partnerships for Tobacco Control
P.O. Box 19405 ~ Washington,
Tel: +1 202-387-8030 ~ Fax: +1 202-234-5176
Email: [email protected]