How far is too far?

21 Mar

At the bottom of this post is a new campaign out of France targeting teen smokers that has caused outrage there.

Before you scroll down to it, take a second to ask yourself what kind of messages in public would you want your teen to see, and what kind would go too far? Hard to get your head around isn’t it? Usually we don’t know these things until we see them.

This is often the agency’s dilemma.

We know shock advertising works. As pointed out in this blog post on the subject, emotional persuasion is probably going to break through better than rational.

Some human behaviours simply demand shocking advertising to strip them down publicly, or graphic imagery to break through the mind-numbing volume of messages hailing down on us.

But as our tolerance levels shift upwards (think about the use of profanity on TV), we see increasingly disturbing images and messages to drive public awareness of all manner of human nastiness, from smoking to pedophilia to animal cruelty. If it works, is the success alone reason enough to endure it?

When I see a particularly shocking ad on a public issue, be it parternalistic or criminal, I always find myself wondering at what point in the parabola of public tolerance such an idea would not have been acceptable.

I recently shared with you the effective work being done in Montana to combat teen use of meth. The campaign worked because it welcomed teens into a meth addict’s life.

The French anti-smoking ads are all metaphor. The strategy reminds me of a campaign used in the US about a decade ago that depicted suited boardroom tobacco execs laughing and counting the money as kids out there lit up. The tobacco companies tried to sue these off the air and failed.

I would have been ok with my kids seeing that one. But did these French ads go too far?


5 Responses to “How far is too far?”

  1. Caderial March 21, 2010 at 1:38 pm #

    I dont think this is taking it to far at all, Its just Blunt truth… in all honesty i would spread this everywhere i go, its a good point. I find that the Smoking industry is taking advantage of people offering them a slow painful death in return for there heard earned cash.

    This goes to show that getting rich off the exploitation of impressionable minds, is happening and i think this needs to be said, Loudly Offensively and with anything it takes to get the point across.

    Since it offensive that they prey on people like this why not be offensive to point it out.

  2. dougbrowncreative March 21, 2010 at 6:53 pm #

    I agree with all your points, but I’m just not convinced that the ad will speak to the market it’s intended to convince. What will teens make about the association between subservient oral sex on a male and smoking? If the stats are to be believed, oral sex is rampant amongst teens as a way of fitting in and being accepted in the peer group. As with smoking. Is this ad aimed at the right audience?

  3. Kate March 23, 2010 at 9:49 am #

    love the shock value of these ads.
    One of my main reasons for quitting smoking was to not be a slave to a corporate agenda of the tobacco company. I had even smoked tobacco from American Spirit (harsh), Drum (messy), Nat Shermans (costly) . stepping away from “commercial” smokes to “boutique” brands didn’t take away the health implications.
    After I put these images up on my facebook page, my friend Andy said it best for these ads “Smoking Sucks”

  4. dougbrowncreative March 23, 2010 at 7:26 pm #

    Smoking sucks. Brilliant. Tell your friend Andy he should be working in advertising.

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