Case Study: French anti-smoking spots look to wake the 'prosumer' within

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The French are almost as committed to their Gauloises as they are to champagne and escargot-so Havas-owned BETC Euro RSCG in Paris had to come up with an exceptional idea to persuade compatriots to quit.

Jerome Guilbert, BETC's head of planning, devised a strategy to tap into the new breed of activist consumer, dubbed the "prosumer," and to encourage dissent against the evils of tobacco. "In every smoker is a prosumer sleeping," he said. "We had to wake up that guy."

In research, smokers were shown a list of chemicals found in a certain product. Asked if they would fight to ban the product, 100% said they would. When told that the product was the cigarette, Mr. Guilbert said, "They were stunned. A strong insight emerged-that smokers are as sensitive as anyone else to dangerous products."

At the heart of the campaign was a 12-second TV spot announcing that a popular product contained traces of mercury, ammonia, hydrocyanic acid and acetone.

When consumers rang a protest hot-line number, they discovered that the product was the cigarette, and smokers were offered assistance with quitting. The hot-line number was jammed with 1 million callers on the evening the ad was shown.

BETC judges the success of its campaign for the French health authority, INPES, by the 5.8% decrease in tobacco sales by volume between June 2002 and May 2003-the highest annual decrease since 1944.