Smoking Creativity on a Burning Issue – the old and the new! (New York & France)

If you are into creatives, you would know (more) - Chicks, Children, Canines and Cigarettes – you don’t need to sell them, for they sell on their own. But for the sake of sheer creativity, though, they are, what one can say, ‘essential ingredients’ of any viral campaign.

No wonder this space has mentioned Cigarettes in a lot of previous entries (as it has Chicks, Children and Canines as well)

Imagine cigarettes being a cure-all for physical and emotional ailments, or one your kids are proud of, for their daddies or best case, smoking curing asthma for you!

A brief report by Adage raises a question which I keep asking myself, while appreciating the creative geniuses behind some of these campaigns – whether one should criticize the horrific results that these campaigns entail, or appreciate the stunning creativity behind them! Even though the video is inconclusive, unfortunately, one can’t help but go for the latter sometimes (at least I did)!

Click here to see the report about the exhibition that was displayed almost a year back at the Science, Industry and Business branch of the New York Public Library, and covered ad agency output from the 1920s to the 1950s.

Though this exhibition was displayed more than a year ago, it reflects the various facets of cigarette advertising in the first half of the 20th century, with the subtlety in their advertising, where cigarettes are recommended by one and all – from children for their “daddies” or dentists to their patients, women for their sex appeal, or, doctors to cure various ailments, and even Santa Claus in some cases! Some great work around Cigarettes – worth a look!


A key insight about the industry is what pains you though – according to the report, most companies target the entry segment, which is children in the age group of 12-22 years, spending billions of dollars in enticing children to smoke! Adults, once regular smokers, are loyal to their brand, and do not change brands easily. Hence, this segment is their focus! Also, 40% of these young consumers belong to 2 countries - China and India! Quite sad and unfortunate!

But there are people / workgroups that are concerned about this fact, and work on exactly the opposite – enticing children to come out of smoking, or better, not get into it at all! One such creative, in France, done by BDDP & Fils, has come out with a brilliant campaign on anti-smoking, where Smoking is termed akin to slavery, and might also make you so addicted to tobacco that you might just be ready to do just about anything to get it!

But, if you were to read (rather ‘over-read’) it as Smoking alluding to Sexual abuse, it might not go down everyone’s throat so well! As expected, this campaign has received criticism for its allusions!

The tagline reads, “Smoking is being a slave to tobacco” – I personally liked the subtlety in the print. However, not everyone appreciates such black humor. According to a report at Youtube, Sexually-charged Anti-smoking Ads Rile France, the ad is misinterpreted as smoking leading to sexual abuse.

The ad, according to critics, gives the impression more about sexuality than anti-smoking and alludes to oral sex, which has irked a lot of parents! Though the supporters of the campaign argue that the harsh message is deliberate and the sexual connotations are inserted to make young people aware of dangers of smoking

As mentioned above, the worst hit are the teens - Teen smoking is a health issue in France, where a third of 17-year olds smoke, despite ban on smoking in restaurants and bars. And other campaigns don’t work with them! So it was required to send out strong signals that dissuade them from smoking. Hmm – would sexual allusions / innuendoes actually push them away from smoking or attract them further?

And do bans on smoking or its advertising really help? I don’t think so, as revenue streams continue to flow almost at the same pace for the cigarette companies, whether advertised or not!

So, as I said, one of the 4 “Cs” – does it really need advertising to sell? Or let me put it the other way around, does anti-smoking advertising really help in de-selling? Maybe, just practicing creativity for such virals is good enough! And all this talk of ban on advertising and anti-smoking campaigns, is probably, just “Smoke in the Air”, literally!

[Advertising Agency: BDDP & Fils, France ; Via Ads of the world, Adage, girl smoking, Girls Smoking]
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