Saturday, January 20, 2007

Vile NHS adverts

Who decided that the current NHS quit-smoking campaign on TV would be effective? It consists of a number of grimy toned adverts of various people going about their daily lives, occasionally being dragged around by fish-hooks embedded in their mouths. The intention is to make smokers want to 'get unhooked' from their tobacco addiction.

A cynical guess on my part is that a bunch of advertising creatives had a brainstorming session, and decided that the phrase 'to be hooked on something' would work visually as a deterrent to smokers, when translated very literally into people being dragged around corridors on fish-hooks. Personally, I find the adverts rather unpleasant to watch, (unless you're a fan of the Jim Rose Sideshow), and totally devoid of any imaginative content, in addition to having a very tenuous connection with their intended purpose. Smokers, please correct me if I'm horribly wrong and you've just nipped off to buy some nicotine patches after a quick viewing.

I would be really interested to see future statistics on the effectiveness of this particular campaign, to know how many smokers decide to give up as a result of watching this set of ads. Or alternatively, do they switch channels, or just squirm at the rather uncomfortable images on screen and light up another cigarette to calm their nerves? I'm also curious to know how much the NHS might have spent on this campaign, and how it was decided that this particular approach would have a better success rate than previous campaigns outlining the potential damage to 'sex appeal' or showing people dying of cancer (last year).

Have any smokers out there actually decided to 'get unhooked', or have the NHS horribly misjudged this one? Or does potential effectiveness and creative content even matter any more, as long as a new campaign is launched regularly, year after year, which looks significantly different to the previous year, showing a 'new initiative'?

It might be interesting to compare the effectiveness of the NHS campaign with the apparently much greater public interest in GMTV's Quit Smoking feature using Paul McKenna, popular British hypnotist and hypnotherapist. Can't help thinking that a grim storyline in a TV soap drama, plus Paul McKenna, might have more impact than the current NHS campaign.

Update 10th June 2008
The artist David Hockney was on BBC2's Newsnight programme last week, and mentioned how vile the NHS adverts that dragged people around on fish hooks were. Fancy that, eh! I can't believe those ads are still remembered after all that time, although for the wrong reasons, it seems.


Lauren said...

I noticed your post and wished to make a slight comment.
There are many different types of smoker, which causes there to be many different types of target audience for adverts from the NHS. For example, this advert may not effective the smokers who enjoy smoking, and don't feel it controls their life. However, for smokers who do feel that their life revolves around smoking, this advert may have some effect. And if even one smoker quits, does that not justify the campaign?
Its difficult to know which adverts are effective, and which aren't.

Claire said...

Hello Lauren,

A bit late to reply to your comment, but I will. The advert annoyed me at the time, though it was ages ago now, as I thought it was very poor creatively, as I also thought quite a few other public sector TV ads were around that time. I felt they were really uninspired, though maybe they worked for some people?

I'd hope the ad company did enough research into their target audience and types of smokers to make the campaign effective. If only one smoker gave up from seeing the campaign, that would obviously be great for them and their family, I can't argue with that. However, if it did encourage only one person to quit smoking then I'm afraid I think the whole campaign should be considered an appalling misuse of public money. Any campaign should achieve more than that, public or private sector.