Humor or Scare Tactics?

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If you’ve seen them, you can’t forget them. The tips Terrie has for getting ready in the morning. How she suggests recording your voice so your grandkids can know how your voice used to sound; Michale, who is trying to figure out how to tell his grandsons that he won’t be around much longer; Marie and Brandon’s stories about having to amputate fingers, toes and complete extremities due to Buerger’s disease.

All of them have these tips and stories because they were smokers.

These videos from the CDC’s anti-smoking campaign, Tips From Former Smokers, certainly got my attention. I remember when I first saw Terrie’s video about how she first has to put in her teeth, then puts on her wig, and finally her hands-free device, simply to get ready in the morning… I was frozen in my seat. The spot was so uncomfortable to watch but I couldn’t look away. The CDC’s fear-based messaging certainly got my attention.

Then I stumbled upon three very odd anti-smoking spots that are quite the 180 from the CDC’s tactic. The Wyoming Department of Health hired the Denver agency of Sukle Advertising & Design for their humors approach to encourage people to quit smoking.

I’m curious as to which tactic better resonates with the target to get them to change their behavior.

If you were/are in a smokers’ shoes, would you be more likely to listen to Terrie, Michael, Marie and Brandon or be informed about Free Gum, Free Patches or how you might Need Someone?


  • May 7, 2013, 8:54 am  Reply

    Great take on competing approaches!
    My two cents as a former smoker: the sum is greater than its parts. The combination of scare tactics and humor is a great one-two punch and works better than either does as a standalone.
    There’s not a smoker on the planet who doesn’t know smoking is bad for you. Your brain has a way of tuning those messages out when you want a cigarette, even when there’s a nagging voice in the back of your head wondering when you’ll get diagnosed with lung cancer. So having that humorous message — rather than being bombarded with doom and gloom all the time — helps keep your brain receptive to the idea of quitting.

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