Big Tobacco is living in a ‘fantasyland’ of deception, says surreal California campaign

The work from Duncan Channon blasts the industry for glossing over the dangers of vaping and e-cigarettes

Published On
Sep 11, 2023
Three billboards from the "Big Tobacco’s Fantasyland" campaign

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Theme parks and fantasy worlds are billed as magical places that contradict reality, which is exactly where the disinformation from the tobacco industry belongs, argues the California Tobacco Prevention Program. 

In “Big Tobacco’s Fantasyland,” a new spot from independent agency Duncan Channon, Californians are warned about harms of vaping and the disinformation and half-truths spread by the tobacco industry. 

In California, 110 people die every day from tobacco-related disease, and 6 trillion cigarettes are still sold each year, according to CTPP. The tobacco industry has also attempted to rebrand e-cigarettes in recent years, claiming they’re healthier than regular cigarettes. Many flavored vapes have also been banned by the FDA because they appeal to children, but are still easily available in the U.S. through online sales. 


A series of 30-second ads spotlight the tobacco industry’s disinformation. In one, a man is welcomed to a plush corporate retreat, complete with smiling receptionist and calming music. He’s gifted a golden vape pen and walks into a swirling abyss, where he joins others with gold vape pens who are struggling to escape a surreal nightmare. A calm voiceover narrates the hellish journey, ending with the warning: “In Big Tobacco’s Fantasyland, the deadliest industry is your friend.” 

The ads are designed to seem calm and serene at first glance, said Anne Elisco-Lemme, executive creative director at Duncan Channon.

“But it’s slowly revealed that this is really an illusion—a softly lit, pastel-colored world that ultimately leads to isolation, addiction and disease,” Elisco-Lemme said. “It’s a place where they want you to believe that everything is fine and the tobacco industry is your friend.”

The spots are directed by Ghanaian-Dutch filmmaker and visual artist Emmanuel Adjei, whose works typically explore ideas such as power, freedom, displacement and inequality. The ads were also deliberate in their casting, including people of color and LGBTQIA+ people, which are populations specifically targeted by the tobacco industry.

The media strategy for the campaign is designed to reach the diverse audiences targeted by the tobacco industry and is adapted into six other languages to better reach those communities. The campaign will run across all advertising formats, including TV, radio, streaming audio, digital, print and out-of-home. This includes high impact OOH in units near several California landmarks, including the Hollywood Walk of Fame, SoFi Stadium and Golden 1 Center.

See some of the OOH work here:

Billboard from the "Big Tobacco’s Fantasyland" campaign

Billboard from the "Big Tobacco’s Fantasyland" campaign

Billboard from the "Big Tobacco’s Fantasyland" campaign

Billboard from the "Big Tobacco’s Fantasyland" campaign

This is the latest work from Duncan Channon in California’s public service and health space. The San Francisco agency has been working with the CTPP since 2014 and won a $40 million opioid education campaign for the California Department of Health in May. 


Sep 11, 2023
Client :
California Tobacco Prevention Program
Agency :
Duncan Channon
ECD/Creative Director :
Anne Elisco-Lemme
Senior Writer :
Jeff Phungglan
Senior Art Director :
Xavier Rivera
Senior Designer :
Darlene Gibson
Senior Designer :
Shannon Burns
Director of Brand Strategy :
Kelleen Peckham
Associate Director of Brand Strategy :
Mel Gray
Content Strategist :
Mariya Manuel
Managing Director :
Kumi Croom
Associate Account Director :
Valerie Nerio
Associate Account Director :
Davis Wolfe
Account Supervisor :
Vida Thaxton
Associate Director Project Management :
Bryan Moore
Project Manager :
Kevin Reza
Group Director Media + Analytics :
Maddy Robinson
Associate Director Media + Analytics :
Sally Lockwood
Planner Media + Analytics :
Artemis Mansur
Associate Planner Media + Analytics :
Sara Wiler
Director Digital + Analytics :
Rob Griffin
Senior Analyst Media + Analytics :
Ranjani Ravirajan
Senior Analyst Media + Analytics :
Paul Callaway
Associate Director of Paid Social :
Eddie Gonzalez
Associate Director of Search :
Kyle Rovinski
Senior Search Manager :
Amira Kishak
Senior Producer :
Amanda Chaffin
Head of TV & Content Production :
Keenan Hemje
Executive Producer :
Rita Ribera Channon
Production Assistant :
Star Baclay
Head of Digital Production :
Eric Kozak
Manager of Art Production :
Shaz Kuerschner
Business Manager :
Tricia Krasneski
Production Artist :
Phat Trieu
Production Company :
The Directors Bureau
Director :
Emmanuel Adjei
Managing Director :
Hillary Rogers
Head of Production :
Sarah Morrison
Executive Producer :
Stephanie Bruni
Producer :
Ash Marshall
Line Producer :
Timory King
Director of Photography :
Adam Newport-Berra
Production Designer :
Dylan Kahn
Edit House :
Cabin Edit
Editor :
Taylor Tracy Walsh
Assistant Editor :
Allyson Nicholson
Executive Producer :
Adam Becht
Executive Sales :
Britt Carson
Senior Producer :
Lynne Mannino
VFX house :
VFX Supervisor :
Dan Karp
VFX Coordinator :
Ipek Kahraman
Managing Director :
Hadi Dahrouge
Post Producer :
Matthew Allen
Telecine :
Colorist :
Daniel du Vue
Producer :
Julia King
Producer :
Hugh Copeland
Audio Mix :
Sound Design :
Interlude Sounds
Sound Design :
Post Production Audio :
Daniel Balk
Post Production Audio :
Krista Herzog
Music Company :
Interlude Sounds
Written and Performed by :
James William Blades
Photographer/Videographer :
Raul Romo
Photo Producer :
Timory King
Photo Producer :
Cecilia Soghikian
Art Buyer :
Shaz Kuerschner
Post Production :
DMAX Imaging
Production Consultant :
Media & Communications Section Chief :
Julie Lautsch
Media Unit Chief :
Jennifer Garcia
Media & Communications Senior Strategist :
Erin Walsh
Media & Communications Senior Financial Analyst :
Sandra Soria
Media & Communications Strategist :
Rais Tuluka
Media & Communications Specialist :
Vikki Ueda
Communications Unit Chief :
Frank Ruiz
Media & Communications Digital Strategist :
Jennifer Biddle
Media & Communications Specialist :
Holly Vannatta
Hispanic/Latino Cultural Partner :
Acento Advertising
Asian Cultural Partner :
Website Development Partner :

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