The American Legacy Foundation started the Youth Enlightenment Initiative in 1999 targeting to reduce smoking rates in youths aged 12-17 years across the US (Vallone et al., 2015). Due to the success, the campaign was expanded to cover the rest of the world in the following year. The expansion of the program envisaged changing the global social norms and eradicating smoking in youths across the world. Youth Enlightenment Initiative allowed teenagers to make informed choices about tobacco after exposing the truth about the industry and its products. Being the only campaign that was not directed by the tobacco industry, it was able to deliver the message without any additional backlash from its target audience and became the largest youth smoking prevention campaign. The Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement provided the funding for its operations, which promoted the prohibition of marketing tobacco to the youth (Vallone et al., 2015). Before the campaign, a team was created to perform extensive scoping research. This was to provide details on the smoking population and brand models. The team also did a literature review on the previous strategies, that were conducted and how effective they were in reducing tobacco consumption in teenagers. After a thorough analysis of the information, the directors began working on the design of the campaign.
The primary target audience of the Youth Enlightenment Initiative was the youth aged 12-17 years while the secondary audience encompassed the young adults aged 18-24 (Vallone et al., 2015). Most importantly, the secondary audience was considered as the role models to the youths and therefore were critical for inclusion in the program. According to the initial research, tobacco was just a tool of individualism and rebellion to indicate that the teens were in control of making their own decisions (Dunlop, 2012). In the context of their lives, they did not consider smoking an important issue, and it had nothing to do with rational decision making but instead revolved around their emotions (Dunlop, 2012).
When industries advertised with the message "Tobacco kills", it became alluring to the audience due to life-threatening qualities illuminated. (Vallone et al., 2015). In addition to this, teenagers were against the social marketing, and anti-tobacco efforts that judged tobacco users and this led to them being intrigued (Harrington, 2015). Consequently, the Truth Initiative appealed to their emotions to persuade them to leave the habit. One of the most famous campaigns featured a singing cowboy who relied on an electronic voice box to sing due to laryngectomy (Dunlop, 2012). He explained that his addiction led to the condition and warned the youth about smoking in their earlier years. This anecdote illustrated the worst-case scenario by highlighting errors in reasoning and insecurities. Teenagers related to his story because he had begun smoking since his early years.
Design and Implementation
The Youth Enlightenment Initiative was designed to highlight the toll of tobacco using relevant and newly innovated ways each year. The campaign objectives were to change the attitude of teens towards tobacco, reducing the availability of its products and second-hand smoke exposure. The directors decided to relate to teens who sought elevated sensations and avoid condemning smokers (Vallone et al., 2015). Instead, they directed the rebellion towards the tobacco industry by exposing the industry's lies and build a strong counter-market brand. The initiative promoted peer-to-peer communication to reduce the barrier and prevent them from thinking that they were being talked down to.
Furthermore, the directors decided to forge partnerships with the government and other corporations like television stations to spread the messages of the youth enlightenment. These alliances are used to develop and implement a detailed communication plan to dispatch important information to any state needed to generate local interest and support (Harrington, 2015). The directors also saw the need for creating a counter brand that highlighted the marketing actions of the tobacco industry (Dunlop, 2012). This included not only the materials used in making a cigarette, its contents and their health effects but also the failure of industries to be truthful about the addictive impacts of cigarettes. All these marketing ideas were to include teenagers in every phase of the development to add legitimacy and youthful style (Harrington, 2015). It consequently empowered the teen movement.
Implementation of these strategies was done by creating a website, events with youth-driven advertising and grassroots outreach of tours in the summer and autumn (Harrington, 2015). Advertisements were run during the most viewed shows and programs by the youth like the Super Bowl (Dunlop, 2012). These advertisements featured celebrities and props that the youth could relate to in their everyday life. They also included activities like jumping out of a plane to pique their interests. With the launch of the Outbreak Tour which was done in six weeks, toured 27 markets with video monitors, games and DJ turntables (Dunlop, 2012). They created a unique zone which allowed teenagers to congregate and talk naturally and freely. The tour staff included public figures that were popular who later became the ambassadors. They were trendsetters whose interests were skateboarding, rapping, fashion design and other music types.
Dunlop, S. (2012). Talking "truth": Predictors and Consequences of Conversations about a Youth Antismoking Campaign for Smokers and Nonsmokers. Journal of Health Communication, 16(7), 708-725. doi: 10.1080/10810730.2011.552000
Harrington, N.G (2015). Health Communication (pp. 181-331). New York: Routledge.
Vallone, D., Ilakkuvan, V., Xiao, H., Cantrell, J., Rath, J., & Hair, E. (2015). Contextual Influences and Campaign Awareness Among Young Adults: Evidence from the National truth Campaign. Behavioral Medicine, 41(3), 155-163. doi: 10.1080/08964289.2015.1036832
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