Truth anti-tobacco initiative turns to mobile gaming

WASHINGTON: The long-running "Truth" anti-smoking campaign is increasing its use of mobile devices as it tries to dissuade teens and young adults from tobacco use.

WASHINGTON:  The long-running “Truth” anti-smoking campaign is increasing its use of mobile devices as it tries to dissuade teens and young adults from tobacco use.

The Legacy Foundation, the campaign's organizers, have launched a mobile game called “Flavor Monsters,” which is available for free download on some Apple and Android devices. The Truth campaign has offered games on its website since 2006. Flavor Monsters is the effort's second mobile game.

“We wanted to go to where kids seem to be gravitating; it seems like a natural space to communicate with them and engage them over a longer period of time,” said Nicole Dorrler, assistant VP of marketing at the Legacy Foundation.

A recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that young people spend 17 minutes a day playing video games on their computers.

The effort will also differ from other Truth initiatives in that it will target 18- to 24-year-olds. Many previous efforts targeted 12- to 17-year-olds, but there is evidence that the slightly older demographic is also receptive to its messaging, said Dorrler.   

The goal of the game is to defend the Earth from Flavor Monsters, which represent added flavorings in tobacco. An accompanying “field manual” has data on the monsters, along with relevant tobacco-related facts and details on the tools that can be used to defeat them. It also includes information about tobacco and flavors.

 “You're getting information when you're receptive to it,” Dorrler said.

In addition to the mobile app, the Legacy Foundation has conducted a tour since last month to draw attention to the game. Flavor Monsters-themed murals will be painted in San Francisco, Chicago, and New York over a series of weeks. QR codes on the murals will link to Flavor Monsters webisodes and the game itself.

The nonprofit will also conduct outreach for the game on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.

The Legacy Foundation has turned to Michael Meyers Public Relations, a firm that focuses on interactive entertainment and the gaming industry, to help with outreach to key journalists.

“Gaming is a very commercial industry. While we're a nonprofit, [Meyers] will help us make contacts on the ground,” said Patricia McLaughlin, assistant VP of communications at the Legacy Foundation.

Meyers, principal of the eponymous firm, thinks there will be interest in the game even though there is a message behind the fun.

“It's primarily a game, but it does have a message," he said. "I think the gaming industry and media tend to notice more when a game has more of a purpose that just to entertain."

In December, the Legacy Foundation teamed up with clothing designer Jeff Staple to produce a limited edition T-shirt, and then promoted the shirt in select markets.  

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