Department of Health NHS Smokefree: A new approach to an old problem

Andy Nairn


Conventional wisdom had it that smokers needed to be scared into submission, through increasingly terrifying health messages. But we realised that this approach was becoming less and less effective. We therefore set off to find something new to say about one of society’s oldest ills.

Our strategic leap was to shift the focus from the physical harm to the smoker, to the emotional upset caused to the smoker’s family. This threat was both more motivating and harder to deny.

Our creative leap was then to avoid the category convention of clever advertising metaphors. Instead, we would simply allow real kids to speak for themselves, to their parents.

The media leap – and perhaps the biggest breakthrough of all - was to give these children broadcast opportunities to make their personal appeals. While a conventional media analysis might decry this as wasteful, we could see that it would generate a massive knock-on effect in terms of talkability.