Anti-smoking advert with laser focus

Over the last year, a US anti-smoking campaign has deservedly been winning praise for an advert that uses celebrities, humour and the language of dating apps.

Left Swipe Dat focuses on how people who smoke in profile pictures apparently get just half as many matches as those who don’t.

While I’m unclear about the advert’s impact in terms of actually persuading people to stop smoking or not to start in the first place, it has certainly been successful in achieving a huge reach.

The most obvious reason for this success is that it uses the language of its audience. In fact, its understanding of its target audience was one of the reasons it won the 2016 US PR Week award for non-profit campaign of the year.

But the reason I like it isn’t really because it reflects the culture and interests of young people (and as someone a couple of decades outside the target audience, I’m not the best judge). It’s because of its laser focus on the message that people find smokers less attractive.

This has led them to produce an anti-smoking advert that doesn’t mention the health effects of smoking. This feels really bold.

Particularly given its presumably sizeable budget, it’s easy to imagine the temptation to reference the health risks, even fleetingly, to manage internal stakeholders or to anticipate the views of external ones.

It would have been an understandable decision, but the wrong one.

Advertising legend David Ogilvy summed it up when he wrote: “Most campaigns are too complicated. They reflect a long list of objectives, and try to reconcile the divergent views of too many executives. By attempting to cover too many things, they achieve nothing.”

Left Swipe Dat is the opposite. Because they’ve limited the advert to a single, simple message – that smokers get left-swiped – the end product is much more effective.

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