Thai anti-smoking video campaign making waves on YouTube
The camera follows a little boy and a girl, walking up to men and women smoking in a public area outside an office building. Cigarette in hand, and in the casual manner of one smoker to another, they ask the adults for a lighter.
Shocked by the request, the smoking adults refuse to lend a light and begin lecturing the kids about the harm of tobacco.
Tension ensues and things get emotional and the kids shoot back: "If smoking is bad, why do you smoke?" They pass on a piece of paper to the smokers before walking away.
The note reads: "You're worried about me but why not about yourself?"
This is a Thai anti-tobacco campaign titled Smoking Kids, and its creepy, urgent power comes from the reality-TV style advert _ a hand-held camera shot from various angles that seem to catch those smoking people unawares, plus the prankish twist that delivers the message and makes the adults blush.
Posted on YouTube, the video recently went viral. After just two weeks, the number of viewers has reached two million. Comments have flooded in from all over the world, mostly praising the effectiveness and intelligence of the campaign.
The Thai Health Promotion Foundation commissioned Ogilvy & Mather to create the video. It is a campaign made specifically for social media websites and not for television, and the first in a series of anti-smoking videos the national health agency is planning to roll out.
"We have seen a number of anti-smoking campaigns, local and international," says Nopadol Srikieatikajohn, executive creative director of Ogilvy & Mather Bangkok.
"For this one, we decided to make it real and actionable. It is a simple production but we focus more on ideas and copywriting in order to communicate with the audience directly and effectively."
At the end of the video, a message informs us that almost every adult who receives the anti-smoking note passed on by the children instantly stops to think, then throws the cigarette away.
None of them throws away the note. And most importantly, the message tells us that the number of phone inquiries by smokers who wanted to quit has increased by 40%.
Supatnuj Sorndamrih, social marketing specialist at the foundation, says the agency is pleased with the instant success of the campaign.
"The video really helps us get this message across."
Supatnuj said the video was based on research and the foundation believes that smokers know the danger of tobacco well but choose to ignore it.
With the popularity of social media and the growing number of users in Thailand, the foundation decided to launch the advert as a pilot project on YouTube.com.
"Surprisingly, 50% of the hits were attributed to viewers overseas," she says. "And we have been contacted by the media from other countries, as well as international health promotion organisations who're impressed by the video and want us to share ideas about our use of the social media project."
The use of social media means the message can reach viewers directly, and that is likely to multiply the impact of the message.
The campaign's understanding of Thai cultural values and the relationship between adults and children were instrumental to the underlying concept.
"In the Thai cultural context it is natural for adults to take action to educate children whenever they misbehave," says Nopadol of Ogilvy & Mather.
"Ironically, adults sometimes misbehave themselves, just as when they light up. They know smoking is bad but they still do it. So we used this irony as our main idea, and in the video, we let children become the reminders of the harm of smoking."
Seen from the number of viewers and the comments it has generated, the campaign has been a huge success, its popularity attested by the Bronze Lion it was accorded last week at the prestigious Cannes Lions Awards in the Stunts and Live advertising category.
It seems the battle against smokers requires more creativity and the foundation is doing just that.
"One of the hidden messages of the video is that children tend to copy the behaviour of adults," says Supatnuj.
"Our research shows that children who grow up with smoking parents are likely to take up smoking themselves. That's where we start working."
By Yanapon Musiket
04 July 2012