Change makers: British Heart Foundation

The charity's Fatty Cigarettes campaign was designed to position the BHF as the smoker's friend

BHF's Fatty Cigarettes campaign
BHF's Fatty Cigarettes campaign

The British Heart Foundation teamed up with the Department of Health in 2003 to develop a new type of anti-smoking campaign.

Research had suggested that smokers were becoming indifferent to traditional stop-smoking advertising and that a fresh approach was required.

Flush with £9m from the Department of Health, the charity devised a nationwide television and poster campaign called Fatty Cigarettes, designed to highlight the internal damage caused by smoking. It was rolled out in January 2004.

The campaign showed graphic images of fat dripping from a cigarette and fatty deposits being squeezed out of a smoker's arteries, with the message "We'll help you give up before you clog up completely".

"The idea that every cigarette smoked causes fatty deposits to build up in arteries was new to smokers, and something that made them reassess their habit," says Nick Radmore, head of social marketing and brand at the British Heart Foundation.

"We also wanted to be seen as the smoker's friend - so we made sure that all of our communications were anti-cigarette, rather than being anti-smoker."

The charity did not set out to shock, but to grab attention and cut through the apathy, particularly among smokers who had tried to quit before. "We wanted to create a Pavlovian connection every time they reached for a cigarette, so that they would be reminded of the fat dripping from the end of the cigarette and see this as the fat building in their arteries," says Radmore.

The charity knew it was on to a strong idea but was shocked by the response the campaign received. Research revealed that 99 per cent of smokers in the target audience had seen the advertising and almost half of all the people who phoned the helpline had made an attempt to quit.

"The reality was far more effective than we could have imagined," says Radmore. "More than 14,000 people gave up smoking as a direct result of the campaign. It made us more ambitious in our work. Having run such a memorable campaign and achieved such great results, we wanted more of the same.

"We have since tried to come up with more ideas that are memorable and shareable. Because we are a charity, we can't afford to buy the media space that makes commercial organisations ever-present in people's lives, so we have to come up with messages that create their own fame and longevity."

EXPERT VIEW: Dan Martin, director of strategy, Chameleon

Dan Martin, director of strategy, ChameleonCampaigns to stop people smoking had been around for a long time before this very visual series of adverts from British Heart Foundation broke on our screens and online. Everyone knows smoking is bad for you, but before this campaign was launched the key message focused on tar and lung disease, and people had simply stopped hearing it.

The vivid image of fat - in particular the TV adverts depicting fat dripping from cigarette tips - was incredibly powerful. The adverts were different and felt real. Tar is something you surface roads with. Fat is slimy and unpleasant and you can imagine it in your body, clogging up your arteries.

The real win for the BHF was that these adverts not only got smoking back on the national agenda, but also reset the smoking conversation in the direction of heart and circulation problems. Today, the British Heart Foundation is one of the most recognised charity brands and its advertising has had a big part to play in that.

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