Viral video prompts smokers to quit

Ogilvy, MEC, Thailand

Smoking has been a public scourge for generations in Thailand, and traditional anti-smoking efforts using scare tactics or emotional cues fail to deliver desired behaviour change. The Smoking Kid campaign developed by Ogilvy Thailand employed an innovative approach called ‘Inside-Out Reflection’. With a budget of just $5,000 and no media spend, the Smoking Kid generated an enormous impact that touched both smokers and non-smokers worldwide. The campaign sparked important social conversations and inspired many people to try to quit for good. It has been applauded as the best anti-smoking campaign ever.


Thai Health Promotion Foundation


The Thai government already had strict tobacco legislation and regulation, including a smoking ban in public spaces, restrictions on advertising, and anti-smoking messages on cigarette packaging. In addition, the Thai Health Promotion Foundation (THPF) invested heavily in anti-smoking commercials and the ‘1600 Quitline’ to help people quit smoking. However, the number of calls received remained low. Our extensive analysis revealed that smokers are ‘immune’ to anti-smoking campaigns because they like to think of themselves as ‘in control’ of their health and behaviour. They believe they are already well aware of the hazards of smoking and choose to ignore the campaign ads and warnings from family and friends, treating them as irrelevant messages from ‘outsiders’. The critical challenge was therefore to convince this group – people who refuse to listen to any messages about the dangers of smoking.

Strategy and Solution

To induce real behaviour change, our new campaign drew on two key insights. First, it is vital to select the right ‘messenger’ – someone the smoker trusts wholeheartedly. And the most powerful messenger is ‘me’ – the smoker themself. Thus, we sought to create a situation which would lead smokers to admit to themselves that smoking is a problem to be solved and generate a call-for-action message on a personal level. We call this strategy ‘Inside-Out Reflection’. Second, in Thai culture, the older generation is expected to set a positive example for the younger generation and adults have a duty to teach children to do the right thing. Building on these two insights, we developed the creative idea of 'Smoking Kid', which revolved around three steps.

Step 1: Moment of Truth

We filmed children (young actors) walking up to adult smokers in public areas, asking them for a light. As expected, all the adult smokers refused the request and instead lectured the kids on the dangers of smoking. The kids then replied, ‘If it’s so bad, why are you smoking?’ before handing them a leaflet which read: ‘You worry about me, but why not about yourself? Reminding yourself is the most effective warning to help you quit. Call the 1600 hotline to quit smoking’. This entire experience was designed in such a way that the ‘self-awakening’ moment would occur at the most critical juncture – during the act of smoking – with a personal message that powerfully compels the smokers to reflect on their own behaviour.

Step 2: Mirror Effect on Other Smokers

We sought to recreate the same intimate feelings of surprise and personal reflection experienced by the original participants for a wide audience of smokers. Therefore instead of mass media, in which audiences are forced to view and receive information in a passive way, we used online media, which is more personal and highly engaging, and thus worked best with our message.

Step 3: Mass Awareness from Contagious Content

With compelling content and message that resonated with a global audience, aided by the viral effect of the online social media, the campaign video rapidly sparked widespread conversations among smokers and non-smokers alike, and brought the topic of smoking back into the offline world. Rather than replacing the 1600 Quitline initiative, the Smoking Kid served as an ideal activator that made the Quitline once again visible to smokers.


The Smoking Kid campaign was able to create a measurable behaviour change. The number of completed calls went from an average of 7,057 per month from January to May, to 11,461 in June, an increase of 62%. This marked a record high and outperformed all of THPF’s previous anti-smoking campaigns over the past 20 years. Moreover, after the launch in July, the average number of monthly calls through November was 9,321, up by 32% from pre-launching levels. This sustained higher number of calls meant that other media advertising the 1600 Quitline was no longer invisible to smokers.


2013 Jay Chiat Awards for Strategic Excellence

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