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Enough Already!

Using the tobacco industry’s research against them in new campaign
May 2, 2016

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) came to SE2 with a challenge: How best to educate and engage millennials who causally smoke about the slippery slope of addiction.
While CDPHE has done plenty of tobacco prevention and cessation campaigns, our challenge was firmly somewhere in-between: Many young adults smoke intermittently – say, when they’re out with friends or visiting a bar or club – and often combine smoking with drinking alcohol. These so-called “social smokers” don’t consider themselves real tobacco users, so traditional cessation messages don’t resonate with them. And they certainly aren’t youth, for whom prevention messages are the norm.
We needed to approach the problem in a new way.
Our solution: The tobacco industry has done plenty of research to sell tobacco products to young adults and keep them using. So, why not use that same research against them? That is exactly what we did.
The tobacco industry is known for using sophisticated audience segmentation and outreach strategies – based on people’s values, attitudes, lifestyles and even outlook on life – to effectively sell products that kill.
Working with iModerate and Kupersmit Research, we tested that same segmentation to see if it was applicable to Colorado millennials’ (it was). Then we interviewed these young adults to learn more about the messages and drivers that would get them to stop using tobacco, even intermittently. We knew that we could use the same advertising and outreach tactics as the industry uses to get their interest – for example, “cool”/interactive media and celebrity endorsements.
We determined that to effectively educate and engage young adults about the dangers of social smoking, we had to appeal to two distinct psychographic profiles: Thrill-seeking Socializers, characterized by living life to the fullest, not worrying about dangerous or risky situations and enjoying a good party; and Stoic Individuals, who are more pessimistic about the future, value family and relationships and appreciate cerebral humor.
SE2 and Launch Advertising then developed two advertising campaigns to reach our Thrill-seekers and Stoics. Stoics will engage through our Snarky Cards campaign, and Thrill-seekers through the After-party Animals campaign. (Some of that creative is shown below.)
We pique their interest through something we know they love to do – Buzzfeed-style quizzes – and use the quizzes to learn about their tobacco use to identify social smokers (i.e., people who only use tobacco occasionally and are not yet daily users. The quizzes are accompanied by a full website (, developed by 303 Software.
Those users who, through the quiz, self-identify as social smokers will be served retargeted advertising that includes messages that speak to their values, attitudes and lifestyles, to get them to stop smoking.
SE2 worked with InLine Media to place a digital-heavy advertising buy, across websites that appeal to Thrill-seekers and Stoics, and included newer, high-impact paid media tactics like digital radio and native advertising. We’ll also be engaging street teams who will educate millennials at Colorado clubs and bars (places where they tend to smoke), and we are doing major sponsorship of the Westword Music Showcase with a pretty remarkable presence that we can’t yet talk about!
Finally, we are working with August United to engage Colorado-based social media stars to share messages about the dangers of social smoking across major social media channels. (This tactic came from a key insight related to millennials’ high trust in endorsements their peers.)
The campaign launched this week and will run through the Fall. Check out the campaign website –

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