The truth® Campaign OverviewCharles C. SmithWest Virginia University01/22/2018The truth® Campaign Overview Campaign Overview The truth® campaign is a unique health campaign that resulted from a Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) signed by the U.S. tobacco companies in 1998. This MSA was a result of litigation brought on by 46 state attorneys general and served as a settlement to multiple legal claims brought by these states against these companies. Some of the restrictions these tobacco companies accepted were the prohibition of marketing tobacco products to youth, restriction of tobacco sponsorship of sporting events, the elimination of all tobacco related outdoor advertising, a ban on free samples of tobacco products to youth, and a ban all industry-related merchandise (2010, Allen, et.
al.). The fund created by this MSA provided $150 million over a decade to establish a foundation, (The National Legacy Foundation), and a staggering $1.45 billion to the foundation to educate the U.S.
public about the dangers of tobacco use.The National Legacy Foundation’s primary target audience was youth aged 12-17 years old and its mandate by the states’ attorneys general was to reduce youth tobacco usage and abuse in the U.S. Based upon earlier successful campaigns targeting youth, the truth® campaign was created. The truth® campaign, while a health marketing effort, uses the concept of counter marketing to reach its target audience. Based upon data from earlier efforts, the truth® campaign recognized that a youth and teen-targeted campaign needs to speak to their audience in, “their own voice” and not be preachy or talk-down to them.
Market research experts have long asserted that the “just say no” approach to public health messaging is counterproductive (McKenna, Gutierrez & McCall, 2000; Reputation Management, 1998). The campaign creators felt that being ‘preachy’ would not be effective as the target youth audience will tune out the message. The truth® campaign features youth spokespersons with personal characteristics often associated with smoking, such as rebelliousness, independence, and risk taking. This campaign co-opts these stereotypical social images to change norms about not smoking (Evans,Price, & Blahut, 2005). The key elements of the truth® campaign are, “Exposing Big Tobacco”, and “Speaking the Facts”. This anti-tobacco campaign incorporates elements of a big tobacco expose’, youth activism, and non-judgmental, intelligent, conversation about tobacco use and its impact on health and the environment.
Theory The truth® campaign is based on behavior change theory and media research. The clearly defined target audience are presented with messages that are designed to influence knowledge, beliefs, social norms, and attitudes that are statistically associated with the behavior the campaign seeks to change (2010, Allen, et.al.). Behavior change theories state that shifts in knowledge, beliefs, and self-efficacy precede changes in attitudes and behavior. The facts and education that the truth® campaign provides to youth, spoken to them in their own voice, and not in a judgmental way, begins a conversation that may lead to action that is beneficial to the target audiences’ health and well-being.Many of the elements of the truth® campaign nudge the youth audience into action based upon the Health Belief Model. The Health Belief Model is an individual/interpersonal-level theory that states that people will change their behavior if they believe they are at risk (2017, Reed College of Media).
The ‘facts’ element of the truth® campaign is a straightforward set of researched and attributed facts about tobacco use and the tobacco industry’s criminal practices. Some examples of these facts are short-reads like how many million trees are chopped down each year due to big tobacco or how higher smoking rates are associated with lower education levels. These easy to understand ‘snippets’ of information are available on the website and mobile applications and are incorporated into the truth® campaign video and multimedia integrated marketing campaigns. Alternate Theory The truth® campaign is multi-faceted and does not rely on just one model to get its point across to its target audience. This ongoing campaign helps youth change its attitude with both educational material and calls for social change.
Knowing that youth are influenced by their peers, (a concept that tobacco companies knew all-too-well), the truth® campaign works to use environmental factors as an influence on youth. Slogans like, “Let’s be the Generation to Finish it” (tobacco use), and “We Don’t Hate, We Instigate”, call to youth to be part of something and make their efforts to stamp-out tobacco use enjoyable and a participatory group effort.Social Cognitive Theory posits that some, if not most, behaviors are learned through observation, imitation (modeling) and identification (2017, Reed College of Media). The truth® campaign’s participatory events, narratives on how knowledge of big tobacco’s bad practices is the ‘new cool’, and how the youth of today can rebel against the ignorance of past generations serve as an attractive model to get youth to adhere to a positive health behavior based upon their environmental factors and the model of Social Cognitive Theory. Conclusion The truth® campaign was born out of a settlement that signaled the end of U.S. tobacco companies’ manipulation of human behavior concepts to sell products that negatively impacted the health and well-being of consumers. The need to reach the youth with campaigns that aggressively slowed the purchase a use of tobacco products resulted in this ongoing campaign.
The truth® campaign was financed by the profits of the tobacco companies that it serves to hinder and speaks to youth in an accepting manner by peers and others they aspire to emulate. Theories such as the Heath Belief Model and Social Cognitive Theory serve as templates as to how the truth® campaign crafted its ongoing message. This marketing effort, (albeit an anti-marketing effort), speaks to youth in the hope that one day, they together, can end the heath issues caused by tobacco use once-and-for-all.