The anti-smoking campaigns conducted by the tobacco industry have had their share of controversy, with some studies demonstrating little to no effect of their television advertising - or more recently, a possible negative effect. Nedra Weinreich interviews a public health professional who serves on an industry Advisory Board and gives an insider POV on this latest research - the verdict is guilty of investigator bias. The Board member goes on to lament the lost opportunity for this research to contribute to understanding what works in health communication campaigns.
Not bad for someone who judges the impact of their own work developing print materials for the Phillip Morris initiative with bean-counting and anecdotes:
To date, PMUSA has distributed 70 million parent brochures, and hundreds of thousands of QuitAssist guides. The main role of the guide is to encourage smokers to connect with useful government and nonprofit cessation resources; I have heard that the PMUSA web site is the most visited cessation site in the US, and refers more traffic to government web resources than any other source.
Do you think Phillip Morris and the other tobacco companies measure their success by how many packages of cigarettes they distribute (for free), how many people visit their websites and if they 'hear' that people like certain brands? If they applied the same resources to understanding and evaluating their anti-smoking communication efforts as they do to the product marketing side of the business (that includes segmenting the various teen and parent audiences, developing audience insights, tailoring materials to these segments, pretesting brochures and ads, and measuring 'purchase behaviors' - deciding NOT to smoke), then they might have a platform from which to critique other people's efforts to get behind the smoke screens. They could also apply what we already know about health communications and social marketing to their work.
And be sure to review the tobacco industry playbook for the new Congress if you haven't already. Settling for FDA regulation of tobacco products is surely tempting. And maybe the tobacco advocates can keep former Presidents out of the photo ops.
OK, I feel better now. Thanx for your indulgence.