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Billroth Hospital’s anti-tobacco campaign is all smoke and no fire

11-June-2013
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Billroth Hospital’s anti-tobacco campaign is all smoke and no fire

The World No Tobacco Day observed recently saw a slew of campaigns released by different organisations warning the population about the ill-effects of using tobacco.

One such campaign was released by Billroth Hospital. Conceptualised by Feswa Creative Consultancy, the ad film shows a fortune teller who goes from door to door, informing people about the harmful effects of tobacco instead of foretelling their fortune. Accompanying the fortune teller is a cow on which it is written ‘Smoking causes cancer’. The film ends with the fortune teller handing a newspaper to a smoker on which Billroth Hospital’s message is shown.

Commenting on the campaign, Shree Prakash, Creative Director, Feswa Creative Consultancy said, “The thought sprang from the fact that habitual tobacco use leads to cancer ultimately. But the fact is that you never know whether a patient is days, weeks or months away from contracting the disease, the only thing you know is that unless the habit is controlled, it ultimately leads to cancerous conditions. Hence, the thought of predicting the assured effects of tobacco use with a fortune teller. Worldwide, tobacco use causes more than 5 million deaths per year.”

The idea was also extended to pulmonology camps in corporate, PUCS and IT sectors and press ads for four days in The Hindu newspaper. Billroth Hospital spends almost Rs 4 crore annually on advertisements targeting the Chennai population.

Is the campaign a hit?
Creative experts believe that smoking causes cancer is already a known fact and by bringing a fortune teller in the TVC is a desperate attempt born out of ignorance. The campaign lacks any interesting and new thought.

Mukund Venkatraman, Creative Director, Banana Brandworks said, “Street theatre was and continues to be a powerful weapon for social causes. Here, it is cleverly used in the premise of the fortune teller’s performance. Now, the ambiguity is towards its audience and its impact. Smoking is without doubt a serious issue, which has in the past seen tar-drenched lungs to viral videos on child smoking as advertisements. Here, an outreach initiative in the set-up of a road side tea stall with snickering, amused and mildly irritated audience is deftly packaged as a TVC. It does make you enjoy watching/ observing the theatrics unfold, but does it make you feel the heat as a smoker? Now, that’s the million dollar question.”

Vinod Lal Heera Eshwer, Creative Director, McCann Erickson remarked, “It’s sad when a hospital says ‘Cancer is the answer’ without understanding what the question is. What is a cigarette? It is a nicotine delivery device. Why nicotine?  Because nicotine is the most addictive substance in earth, it is more addictive than cocaine, marijuana and heroin put together. Once nicotine enters your system, the body craves it. This makes a smoker a helpless victim.”

“So telling a smoker that cancer is an answer is a sad joke in bad taste. A desperate attempt born out of ignorance. If it’s a question of awards, this certainly is not the answer. The hospital should kick the butt,” Eshwer added.

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