CAMPAIGNS: ALA uses PSAs to add familiar face to online program

PR Team: American Lung Association of California (Oakland, CA) and Angelsmith (Los Angeles) Campaign: "Find Your Freedom From Smoking" Time Frame: December 2002-ongoing Budget: About $2,500

PR Team: American Lung Association of California (Oakland, CA) and Angelsmith (Los Angeles) Campaign: "Find Your Freedom From Smoking" Time Frame: December 2002-ongoing Budget: About $2,500

Mark Twain famously said that it was easy to quit smoking - he'd done it hundreds of times. But for smokers who are serious about sticking with quitting, the Freedom From Smoking Program is available at no cost to all visitors to the website of the American Lung Association (ALA). "In its short history, this program has been very successful," says Andy Weisser, communications VP for the American Lung Association of California. "It provides a convenient environment for people who want to quit. Visitors pace themselves during a seven-week program, and connect with similar people across the country." Strategy The ALA decided to humanize the problem. Although a nationwide program online had been successful for some time, there was no campaign to promote it to a wider audience. Prompted by an offer from director/producer Hal Long of Angelsmith to produce a pro bono PSA for the program, the ALA developed a campaign that included a series of PSAs and print ads, along with web-based components to promote the campaign. "And we thought no one could personalize the program better than Carol Burnett, who had lost her own daughter to lung cancer," says Weisser. "She readily agreed to donate her time and talent to the effort." Tactics The ALA launched the drive nationwide via satellite on December 30, in time for New Year's resolutions. Four 30-second PSAs featured Burnett's personal message, and one related print ad invited downloading for general media, newsletters, and company bulletin boards. "I was a smoker - I know how hard it is to quit," says Burnett in one of the campaign's announcements. "But I've been smoke-free for over 20 years. It wasn't easy, but there are a lot of things in life that are much harder." "The PSAs cover a wide demographic," says producer Long, "and as a whole are meant to be compelling and uplifting. We wanted the spots to recognize the difficulty and pain of quitting smoking, and also to end on a positive note, so that smokers would feel empowered to try the program." Results More than 100 TV stations nationwide, as well as stations abroad, have either ordered or aired the messages. "Since only one of the messages is date-specific," says Weisser, "they can run without an expiration date." And a number of related news stories resulted, including one on Entertainment Tonight. "We also negotiated for Burnett's message to air nationwide in all Sears stores once every hour, every day, throughout February and March. The airtime was donated, saving $20,000." In addition, more than 40 other businesses and organizations in the US and Mexico - including Verizon, Bank One, and Black & Decker - have since downloaded the Burnett print ads from the ALA's website to run in newsletters or for use as informational flyers. According to the ALA's national office, statistics for its Freedom From Smoking online program in January show 5,500 registrants, the highest number during any month since the program began in February 2001, according to Weisser. Long and his team went on to produce another series of TV messages that were released in time for World No Tobacco Day, which takes place May 31. Those spots, designed to reach a variety of audiences, featured Merrin Dungey of the ABC television show Alias, the musician Bird, as well as actor Robert Zepeda. "Without the donated talent and other factors, there is no way we could have produced this campaign on our own," says Weisser. Future The campaign does not expire, since its messages, content, and personalities are timeless, says Weisser, who adds that it "will be appropriate for endless future use." In addition, Zepeda's spot was produced in Spanish to promote that version of the online program when it is ready to launch.

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