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Give Up Before You Clog Up (2003)


Main image of Give Up Before You Clog Up (2003)
SponsorBritish Heart Foundation
 Department of Health
Advertising AgencyEuro RSCG

Anti-smoking campaign that drew explicit links between cigarettes and cardiovascular disease.

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To capitalise on potential quitters' new year's resolve, the Give Up Before You Clog Up campaign was launched on New Year's Day 2004. It was one of three similarly-themed films that formed part of a £4m three-year anti-smoking campaign, which also included extensive newspaper, poster, and internet advertising.

The correlation between smoking and cancer had already penetrated the public consciousness. However, in light of recent reports published in the British Medical Journal which offered compelling evidence of the damage to coronary arteries caused by smoking, the new challenge for heath educators, sponsors and producers was to raise awareness of the link between smoking and heart disease. At the time the films were released, an estimated one in five deaths in Britain each year was due to smoking. Of these 26% were caused by cardiovascular disease and smokers were twice as likely to have a heart attack as non-smokers. The remit was to disgust smokers into quitting as well as enlighten them about associated potential health risks.

Shock tactics had been a facet of anti-smoking campaigns from the outset - one of the first British anti-smoking films, Smoking and You (1963), featured dissections of blackened lungs, petri-dishes of tar extracted from smokers' lungs, and heart-rending interviews with dying smokers. But the endless oozing of gunk onto our screens was a step too far for many viewers and a barrage of complaints forced broadcasting authorities to review the ads' suitability for post-9pm TV transmisssion. Whilst it was agreed that the ads were distasteful, the reasoning behind the shock tactic approach was deemed to outweigh any offence and the transmissions (and emissions) resumed. The gunk seeped onto a wide range of other media including newspapers, billboards, computer screens and beer mats.

Through succinct visual symbolism, the ads convey an iconic connection between a tubular cigarette and a clogged aorta. A month after launch, a survey concluded that it was the most successful anti-smoking campaign to date in terms of its influence on public behaviour. As well as human arteries the goo must have also penetrated deep into the psyche of thousands of quitters - "stop smoking" telephone lines and websites saw usage increase two-fold over the period that the ad campaign was transmitted. It won 16 industry awards including a Chartered Institute of Public Relations Excellence award in 2005. The second phase of the hard-hitting campaign, Under my Skin, was rolled out in 2005.

Katy McGahan

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Video Clips
Artery - Clogged (0:43)
Anti-Smoking Public Information Films