New series of antismoking ads aim for surprise factor
The 30-second television advertisement opens with a shot of a man wearing a large protective breathing apparatus over his mouth and nose; thick goggles shield his eyes; his hands are sheathed in rubber gloves. Chemist Dave Blackwell explains that he is ha
An off-screen voice asks him, ''Would you ever breathe that without that mask?''
His response is quick: ''No.''
''Did you know that cigarette smoke contains acetone?''
Blackwell, clearly surprised, stares blankly at the camera for a few long seconds.
''No, I didn't,'' he answers finally, his voice muffled by the mask.
Surprise is a major element in a series of antismoking advertisements scheduled to launch throughout Massachusetts tomorrow. The ads, created by Arnold Worldwide for the Massachusetts Tobacco Control program, feature stark documentary-style interviews with professionals who handle hazardous chemicals. After a few background questions, each interview subject is asked whether he realizes that tobacco contains the dangerous chemical he's been discussing. In each case, the subject is clearly taken by surprise.
''That's what we were going for, the surprise and the un-knowing,'' according to Peter Favat, the creative director at Arnold Worldwide who supervised the campaign. ''There's a tension and an uneasiness. We're hoping that the viewer is surprised as well as the person in the advertisement.''
Shooting the advertisements required an unusual, ''Candid Camera''-style approach. According to Favat, the interview subjects, all employees of local companies, were told that they were participating in a documentary film about hazardous chemicals. Then, at the end of each interview, the subjects were asked if they knew the chemical was present in cigarette smoke. Each subject's reaction, captured live, is the central element in the commercials.
''We wanted to reach people with a different kind of style,'' said Dr. Howard Koh, commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, which runs the Massachusetts Tobacco Control program. ''There's a real authenticity to these ads, because they were not scripted in any way. So they ring true.
''The tobacco industry has spent millions of dollars to normalize a carcinogen,'' he added. ''We wanted to de-normalize it.''
The TV campaign, which is funded by the state's cigarette tax and funds from the tobacco settlement, is scheduled to run throughout Massachusetts for a total of six weeks. There also will be complementary radio ads. A print campaign will run in selected Massachusetts daily newspapers in cities and towns where smoking ordinances will be addressed at public hearings.
Michael Moore, best known for his film ''Roger and Me,'' served as both director and interviewer for the TV spots.
''Michael Moore doesn't do many ads, and he usually doesn't allow his voice to be used,'' according to Arnold Worldwide creative director Favat. ''But he allowed us to use his voice in these ads. He was up for this game.''