BHF anti-smoking adverts hit nerve with general public

The British Heart Foundation’s (BHF) anti-smoking adverts hooked almost everyone in their target audience, according to an independent evaluation.

An incredible 94% of smokers surveyed said they recognised at least one element of the 'Give Up Before You Clog Up' campaign, with the 'dripping fat cigarette' TV advert sticking in the memories of 90% of those surveyed. The survey was conducted by leading research agency, Hall and Partners, who say the statistics beat any other advertising campaign they have worked on.

Betty McBride, Director of Marketing and Communications at the British Heart Foundation, said: "These results show our advert has penetrated the public consciousness and successfully raised awareness of the link between smoking and heart disease.

"It has left an indelible imprint on many smokers’ memories, so that every time they pick up a cigarette, they think of our advert and remember the damage that cigarette can do to their arteries."

Other impressive figures from the evaluation include:

  • 67% were ‘really drawn into’ the adverts
  • 82% felt it was a serious message and believed it
  • 83% said the adverts made them think again about stopping smoking
  • 73% said smoking is ‘very closely linked’ to clogged arteries – up from just 55% before the campaign

The three-year campaign, launched on January 1, is funded by the Department of Health to the tune of £7.5 million. The first phase, costing £4 million, involved TV, newspaper, poster and online advertising throughout January as well as beer mats distributed in pubs across England.

The TV advert depicted fatty deposits being squeezed out of an artery of a 32-year-old smoker, representing the atheroma that can build up in our arteries when we smoke. It also showed a group of smokers in a pub, brushing fat dripping from their cigarettes off their clothes. The campaign was designed to reinforce the link between smoking and heart disease and create an iconic link between the cigarette tube and a clogged artery.

Helen Westwell, Strategic and Creative Development director of Hall and Partners, said: "The 94% recognition figure is startling. In our history, we have never seen any advert cut through so strongly. When you consider that the TV ads only ran for one month, this is all the more amazing."

Supporting the adverts, the BHF’s smoking helpline took more than 12,000 calls. A new anti-smoking microsite (bhf.org.uk/smoking) attracted 65,000 visits in January, helping the main BHF website draw 250,000 visitors that month, a 95% increase on December 2003. Nearly 13,000 advice booklets about giving up smoking were sent out.

The BHF also received hundreds of calls and emails from people supporting the campaign. One telling comment from a multi-quitter summed up the reaction of many smokers: "Until this campaign, I had given up giving up – you probably saved my life."

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