Prey on Teens Insecurites

Slate, in their “Ad Report Card: Advertising Deconstructed” series has today a piece How To Get Teens Not To Smoke – Prey on their insecurity:

The ads aren’t saying: “Hey kids, don’t smoke! It gives you cancer, it makes your breath stink, and you’ll have to talk through that buzzy voice-box thing because you’ll have no larynx.” (Such were the constant messages of my day—along with tips on resisting peer pressure.)

Instead, these new ads seem to say: “Hey kids, tobacco companies are evil! And you’re a tool if you get duped by their manipulative marketing techniques. Do you want to be a tool, kids?”

This tack feels right to me. For, in the end, what does the teen fear most? Is it bad breath? Is it dying? No. (And dying’s further down the list than bad breath.)

I agree with the new underlying strategy but the thing about dying being farther down the list below bad breath is off the mark. Obviously saying “You’re gonna die!” doesn’t work, but to say breath is a bigger consideration is stupid. But the point about not being a “tool” is smart – just today a peer in school blurted out about how foolish a tobacco ad was.

One Response to Prey on Teens Insecurites

  1. Chris Yeh says:

    I don’t think it’s so much that teens are insecure as that they assign a much higher discount rate to the future. Issues like high blood pressure and lung cancer are so far off in the future that it is difficult to evaluate their “net present value,” and they certainly don’t have the same current impact as getting fat, looking uncool, etc.

    Ultimately, it is a rational decision process, though people may be using an excessively high discount rate.

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