THE MESSAGE IN THE MUSIC
The Health Promotion Agency is on a mission to reduce smoking among New Zealanders. Its longstanding partnership with Smokefreerockquest has been a great way for it to both decrease youth smoking rates and help launch the career of talented Kiwi musicians.
Up to two-thirds of people who smoke today and continue smoking will eventually be killed by tobacco. The financial cost of smoking to the country is also close to $2 billion a year, but more importantly there is also a high emotional cost – family members are too often watching someone they love ravaged by a cancer caused by smoking. The Health Promotion Agency (HPA) has a long-standing partnership with Smokefreerockquest to combat smoking among youth, as most smokers start by the time they’re 24. And its challenge has always been how to get its message across without overdoing it and putting young people off – certainly no easy feat. As anyone that has spent time with teenagers would know, the surest way to get them to do something is to tell them not to. So, intervening with traditional health promotion techniques was fraught with danger in regards to unintended consequences. Further, inside youth culture there were some peer groups more at risk of smoking than others. Sport participation, for instance, reduced risk – but music, stagecraft and the arts is an area where potential smoking risk is more prevalent.
Insights had shown that to make Smokefree messaging work, the HPA shouldn’t separate its leveraging content from the event. So, last year, the HPA wove its message carefully into the competition; even making sure all its supporting creative was made by the same designer who did the creative material for the competition itself. The HPA decided to reach its audience by launching webisodes from every event (creating 24 in total), pushing them out through digital and media partnerships within days of each event. They were three-minute packages, including clips of the bands in action, interviews and cut-aways from the day. Smokefree messaging from the participants was sewn in, coming directly from those it was trying to reach. At the risk of having the opposite effect of its intention, it never got participants to tell people not to smoke. It simply showed the strength of a smoke-free lifestyle and how that connected back to music. To get as many eyeballs seeing the webisodes as possible, it used its partnership with Mediaworks to share videos on its own social channels as well as on The Edge TV. To increase Māori and Pacific engagement, it profiled those communities in its video content, to show that Māori and Pacifica had a real role in both Smokefreerockquest and its sister competition, Smokefree Pacifica Beats. Through a third partner – the New Zealand Music Foundation – it piloted workshops using well respected mental health professionals for those who made it into the second round. Workshops looked at wellbeing in an industry that can be tough on new talent coming through. Rather than a lecture, the workshops were honest and conversational.
The 2017 Smokefreerockquest ended up being fantastic in terms of event performance. The HPA estimates more than 1,500 kids featured in the videos, and on social media alone they received over 311,000 views. There were 2,876 students participating at the events, which was a 15 percent growth year-on-year. There was a 16 percent increase in Pacific youth participation and a 30 percent increase in Māori youth participation. A whopping 13,229 people attended the live events and the HPA gained over 120 pieces of earned media (free PR and editorial coverage), including mainstream TV coverage from the national final. The smoking rate for 14 and 15-yearolds was 2.1 percent, the lowest it’s ever been (down from 15.6 percent in 1999). Further, 82 percent of 14 and 15-yearolds had never tried a cigarette (up from 36 percent in 2001). The pilot workshops were also extremely successful and will be rolled out again in 2018. Long may the successful partnership continue.