Creative in association withGear Seven

CTCP's Social Smoking Campaign Urges ‘Smokers in Denial' to Wake Up

Advertising Agency
San Francisco, USA
Spots created by agency Duncan Channon use social tension to showcase the ways that casual smokers can quickly become addicted
While children of the 1990s and 80s grew up seeing anti-tobacco efforts targeted at heavy ‘pack-a-day’ smokers, this campaign taps into the insight that social smokers age 21 to 35 typically don’t view themselves as ‘smokers’ -- and thus, underestimate the harm of lighting up socially.

CTCP’s “Never Just a Smoke” campaign also combats the reality that new forms of tobacco -- including hookah, cigarillos, JUUL and e-cigarettes -- make social smokers less likely to perceive the health risks of occasional use. 

Digital video spots ‘Date’ and ‘Get One’ digital video spots directed by Hoffman / Metoyer use social tension to create an ‘oh shit’ moment for young people who realise they are smokers only after they struggle to explain away their night-out cigarette to a date or friend. In an arc that begins with each character denying that they smoke, a series of smoke-filled social memories culminates in the realisation that they smoke much more than they’ve been willing to admit even to themselves.

OOH executions feature stylised, glitchy photography shot by Pari Dukovic that evokes social smokers’ distorted perception of their habit and its harm, along with copy lines that strip bare common defences of social smoking. The imagery is juxtaposed with startling statistics that reveal the true health consequences of occasional smoking and alternate forms of tobacco such as hookah and cigarillos. 

“After discovering that young people who smoke socially rarely see themselves as smokers, we wanted to play with this distorted perception about the pervasiveness of their habit -- as well as its harm,” said Anne Elisco-Lemme, executive creative director, Duncan Channon. “The campaign places young people in true-to-life social situations that force a moment of self-realisation about the truth of their smoking and its impact. We strip away the excuses used to defend social smoking -- leaving the viewer with the stark reality of their smoking and its health consequences.”

“The campaign also combats the reality that new forms of tobacco, including hookah, cigarillos, and e-cigarettes such as JUUL make young people less likely to perceive the health risks of occasional use,” added Elisco-Lemme. “It’s all too easy to dismiss something you don’t do everyday as harmless, especially if it doesn’t look or taste like a traditional cigarette.”

“Never Just a Smoke” OOH launches June 4 on the heels of digital video, digital audio and radio that targets “smokers in denial” age 21-34 across California -- with special focus on reaching LGBTQ, Hispanic, Asian and African-American communities that are at higher risk for social smoking. Digital video will be targeted around key moments and “stressors” that typically drive people to light up, such as graduation and moving. CTCP has also partnered with Buzzfeed on custom “Regrets You Have After A Night Out” video and quiz content to further engage young social smokers. The campaign includes online resources at 

In addition to featuring same-sex couples in both digital video and OOH executions, the campaign will include animated projections and geo-targeted digital videos near LGBTQ Pride events, as well as posters and coasters at LGBTQ bars across Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and Sacramento.  

The campaign is the second by Duncan Channon for CTCP as part of a five-year new business win that includes a series of public education campaigns funded by CA Proposition 56 to prevent or reduce tobacco use. In April, CTCP and Duncan Channon launched Flavors Hook Kids, the country’s largest campaign to curb flavored tobacco use among teens. This new work comes in addition to Duncan Channon’s previous Effie-winning anti-vaping campaign “Wake Up” for CTCP.

Agency / Creative
Music / Sound
Work from Duncan Channon
Horizon Organics
California Tobacco Prevention Program
One Smooth Ride
Golden Road