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The best anti-smoking ad you’ll ever see – Hong Kong (and the world) should copy the idea using local child actors

As a rule, smokers don’t like to be lectured. So how do you create yet one more anti-smoking campaign that might actually make smokers think?

Use that perfect tool of manipulation: children. A fascinating ad from Ogilvy & Mather Bangkok failed to grab a prize at the Cannes advertising festival last week, though it did end up on the shortlist for the Promo & Activation category, and has caught some viral attention online.  Sadly the Thai Health Promotion Foundation chose an advertising agency that has and continues to earn money from Big Tobacco and the YouTube video was pulled after a brief appearance – but Clear the Air has it on our website. (you will need Real player to view the video]

In the video, cherub-faced kids walk up to smokers on the streets of Thailand holding cigarettes in their tiny fingers and asking for a light. The smokers refuse, explaining to the kids why smoking is bad for them. After listening patiently to each lecture, the child would hand the smoker a folded-up note and walk away.

“You worry about me. But why not about yourself?” the note read. It then gave the number of the Thai Health Promotion Foundation’s hotline to help smokers quit.

An extreme rarity for such street campaigns, most of the adults did not throw away the brochures they were handed.

According to the agency, phone calls from smokers went up 40 per cent in the wake of the campaign.

The vice-chairman of Ogilvy Group, Rory Sutherland, spoke publicly about the way consumers’ brains make decisions. One of the points he likes to make is that a message has a much higher chance of getting through if delivered in the proper context. In an interview last month, he described one of his favourite campaigns from the global network in the past year – and it demonstrated a similar contextual intervention that the Thai anti-smoking campaign does.

“One of the first rules that you learn from brain science is that we make decisions contextually,” Mr. Sutherland said.

Op-Ed The best anti-smoking ad you’ll ever see

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