Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Don´t talk about smoking if you want people to quit

Campaign Brief reported on a new anti smoking campaign in the latest newsletter. 

What bugs me about anti smoking campaigns is that they are so focused on smoking. Research has proven that smokers feel the urge to smoke stronger when they get reminded of cigarrettes (Lindstrom, Buy-ology for example). 

Also, in the world of coaching, we always strive to help people see where they wish to be rather than to dwell on the problems involved in their current situation. When thinking about everything that is wrong, your head will be filled with this, and it will affect your mood and expand the negativity. 

Some people believe it´s good "to get it out" but thinking is not a zero sum game. When "getting your anger out" by screaming or doing a boxing class, you will only increase the levels of anger and testosterone, making things worse. A better way is to focus on new habits, new visions, constructive perspectives. To kill the darkness with light.

I inteviewed several people for an anti-smoking campaign last year, and it was obvious that the minute an anti-smoking ad entered the television, people rushed out to smoke! As a kind of defence system, their brains started coming up with reasons FOR smoking. "Ah, it´s relaxing, oh, my life is crap so I deserve it, eh, I´m healthy and can quit if I get sick..."

Most campaigns with the aim to put people off smoking are created by non-smokers. They are created by high achievers working in ad agencies, by those who are childless and problemless, young and carefree. Their view of smokers and their complex relationship to the nicotine is many times naive and shallow. 

I know the creators of this campaign means well, but does it work? I doubt it. The problem is not how to manage getting where you want to be, but to want it.

Perhaps a better strategy is to help smokers relax in other ways? Make them happy, enhance their lives, spread joy in their misery by focusing on other things. Distract them, entertain and give hope. Deal with their need to rebel. Offer them stuff to do with their hands. 

I know when I quit smoking 16 years ago (started as a rebellious 12 year old, but don´t tell my mum :) it was because I started going to the gym, and exercise became a new obsession. I wanted to be fitter, so I had to stop poisoning myself. I replaced the "smoker" identity with a healthy "gym chic" one. To just give up the cigarettes without having anything to fill the void with would have been harder. 

This is the campaign:

quitbuddy_home_01.jpgThe Australian National Preventive Health Agency (ANPHA) and media communications agency UM are launching My QuitBuddy, a program to help people quit smoking and stay smoke free.
My QuitBuddy is a highly intuitive digital program that can be personally customised by each user.  Smokers can set their own goals, the reasons they are quitting, include photos and recordings of loved ones and even add buddies they can call upon in times of need.See the app here.
Says James Filmer, UM chief digital officer: "We have designed this app to provide vital support for people through the hardest periods in their quit smoking programs. It includes tips and distractions to overcome cravings and all the facts you need to understand the impact smoking has on your health. It is a highly personalised 24/7 tool." 

quitbuddy_dailymessage_quitting.jpgTo summarise the enormity of the challenge for anti-smoking campaigns, tobacco smoking is one of the single largest preventable causes of premature death and disease in Australia, accounting for approximately 15,500 deaths per annum. Tobacco is responsible for more deaths in Australians up to age 64 than all deaths attributable to alcohol and illicit drugs combined across all age groups.
The My QuitBuddy app is so far designed to run on Apple iPhones or iPads, but after it's initial launch this week a rapid development program is in place to make the app available to multiple mobile phone platforms. 

Other features of the app include:

  • An option to quit now or prepare to quit later
  • My Goals: set your goals and add the support you need to achieve them
  • Daily Message: for the first 30 days, you'll receive a handy tip when you open the app
  • Danger Times: nominate your vulnerable times and My QuitBuddy gets in touch to keep you strong
  • Alerts: a series of scheduled alerts (such as congratulations, it's been two weeks!) to keep users on track
  • Visual icons: view your daily progress including how much money you've saved
  • Distract Me: when cravings come, My QuitBuddy helps with a range of distractions
  • Remind Me: a personalised slideshow reminds users why they decided to quit in the first place
  • Buddy Up: supplies community notes from people who are also quitting and helps you access the Quitline or a nominated buddy
My QuitBuddy is now available as a free download. 

Strategy and overall concept for the app were developed by UM, with design and development from mobile development specialists The Project Factor.

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