Anti-va­p­ing ads show the power of the as­terisk


They’re the ads with the as­ter­isks, and they have the va­p­ing com­mu­nity in an up­roar. In a mul­ti­fac­eted cam­paign launched last March, the Cal­i­for­nia Tobacco Con­trol Pro­gram, part of the state’s Pub­lic Health Depart­ment, tar­geted the surg­ing use of e-cig­a­rettes, es­pe­cially among young adults, and their po­ten­tial threats to health.

For its work in con­ceiv­ing and im­ple­ment­ing the cam­paign, San Fran­cisco ad­ver­tis­ing and mar­ket­ing agency Dun­can/Chan­non won Best in Show recog­ni­tion at the 2015 Health­care Mar­ket­ing IM­PACT Awards.

“Our charge with this cam­paign was telling the story of this rapidly emerg­ing, un­reg­u­lated prod­uct cat­e­gory,” said Andy Berken­field, the agency’s CEO. “Not just ad­ver­tis­ing mes­sages, which are lim­ited in their na­ture, but also to of­fer a place where the pub­lic can find the most up-to-date in­for­ma­tion on the ef­fects of e-cig­a­rettes.”

That space is a web­site— Stil­lBlow­ — that serves as a repos­i­tory of ed­u­ca­tional resources to com­ple­ment the ad mes­sages.

The cam­paign uses TV, video and dig­i­tal pre­sen­ta­tions and out­door dis­plays such as tra­di­tional bill­boards. It also de­ployed in­no­va­tive tools such as large in­ter­ac­tive screens at bus shel­ters and dis­plays atop gas sta­tion pumps. They promi­nently placed as­ter­isks in many of the cre­ative pieces to ham­mer home the no­tion that there’s an ad­di­tional layer to the mes­sage.

“While we wanted a bold, rec­og­niz­able sym­bol in the de­sign, we also wanted the pre­sen­ta­tion to tele­graph that there’s more to the story,” Berken­field said. “There’s more than what the head­lines are telling us about va­p­ing and e-cig­a­rettes.”

Be­cause of the com­plex and of­ten po­lar­iz­ing na­ture of the de­bate over e-cig­a­rettes, de­vel­op­ing the cam­paign pre­sented many chal­lenges, said Robert Dun­can, the agency’s founder and pres­i­dent. “With health­care there’s a whole dif­fer­ent level of scru­tiny, es­pe­cially le­gal. Ev­ery word of the copy for the cam­paign went through 127 dif­fer­ent le­gal re­views,” Dun­can said. “Just think about that— you’re try­ing to come up with some­thing cool and fun and at­ten­tion-get­ting for young peo­ple that also passes muster with large le­gal staffs. What a cir­cus trick that can be.”

Dun­can/Chan­non bested more than 75 agen­cies to land the cam­paign con­tract, Berken­field said.

“Like so many things, it of­ten comes down to the in­tan­gi­bles. I’m sure other agen­cies had great ideas and showed a lot of cre­ativ­ity. There’s a lot of par­ity in the industry,” he said, “but I think at the heart of ev­ery win is the emo­tional con­nec­tion, that I trust this team to solve my prob­lems.”

The Stil­lBlow­ web­site (images at top right and at right) of­fers ed­u­ca­tional resources that sup­ple­ment the mes­sages de­liv­ered via TV, video and out­door ad­ver­tis­ing.

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