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SE2 Marks 25th Year of Challenging the Status Quo to Drive Positive Change

September 5, 2023

Think for a moment about tobacco. 

For the companies that profit from it, it’s quite possibly the perfect product.  

Tobacco quickly makes its customers physically dependent – literally addicted to the product.  

There’s only one catch: Tobacco kills about half of these customers. 

To Big Tobacco, this was not a moral dilemma but a solvable problem: It would create replacement smokers” by hooking young people. 

Putting aside the question of how tobacco executives can sleep at night, this insight suddenly explains why the tobacco industry creates flavored products and youth-oriented marketing campaigns that appeal to kids.  

Immoral? Yes. But decades ago, it wasn’t yet a big scandal. 

Big Tobacco hired armies of advertising agencies, PR firms, and lobbyists to prop up its profits and give it mainstream legitimacy. 

Back then, tobacco companies would pay generous retainers just to “park” firms. It was easy money: You didn’t have to do much besides agree not to derail its gravy train.  

This coincided with the genesis of SE2. While many of our competitors happily cashed Big Tobacco checks, we chose the other path — working to stop the deadly toll of tobacco.   

In 1998, we launched SE2 as a marketing and communications agency focused exclusively on important public issues like tobacco. 

As we mark our 25th anniversary, we still take on the evolving threat of tobacco.  

Now, we’re also addressing emerging threats like fentanyl, which grew out of predatory marketing by opioid manufacturers that seemed very familiar to those of us who had analyzed the Big Tobacco playbook.  

We’re also promoting mental health for teens, strong starts for toddlers, affordable housing, health care access, education, immunization, and an array of other vital causes.  

Our team steadily grew and diversified, now encompassing 15 full-time employees. We’ve occupied five different offices plus a pandemic-caused virtual phase. We’ve expanded our reach across the country.  

We increasingly balanced our focus on using communications to change policy with the principles of individual behavior change and positive social norms. Together, these three pillars create a sustained virtuous cycle that we call Perpetual Movements: Change for Good®. In this model we’ve refined over decades, each step creates momentum for the next.  

We’ve had the privilege of collaborating with national experts in public health, social psychology and medicine, building their science-based strategies into our work.  

Our work is also informed by the lived experiences of our staff and advisors as we elevate their voices. Their diversity encompasses age, race, ethnicity, country of origin, gender identity, sexual orientation and education. When we view challenging issues from their varying perspectives, we all see a more complete picture and can craft more comprehensive solutions.  

No matter what issues we embrace, we bring a mindset we learned while taking on Big Tobacco.  

We know that change requires that we challenge conventional thinking and disrupt the status quo.  

That philosophy became our tagline: Challengers Creating Change®.  

Over our 25th year, we’ll amplify the voices of our staff who will share how they challenge conventions to create change.