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Smoker of the Future (1985)


Main image of Smoker of the Future (1985)
DirectorBarry Myers
Advertising AgencyFCO Univas
Production CompanySpots Films
SponsorCentral Office of Information
 Department of Health

In the 1980s, producers of public information fillers found themselves having to compete with commercial counterparts who had been forced to adopt a more lateral approach in light of recent restrictions on tobacco advertising. Cigarette promotions had recently been banned in cinemas and on London underground trains and stricter guidelines meant that adverts could not, for instance, show a person smoking. In overcoming newly-imposed legislation, brands such as Silk Cut and Benson & Hedges came up with a catalogue of strikingly surreal promotions that sent tobacco sales soaring.

To compete in this arena, FCO enlisted the expertise of acclaimed ad-man Barry Myers, whose track record in the commercial sector dated back to the 1960s when he co-founded Spots Films with Tim White. A discordant electronic soundtrack and the strangeness of the (then) state-of-the-art computer graphics conjures a nightmarish tone. Somewhere in the midst of a hazy 1980s architectural manifestation of the future, possibly inspired by the the seminal sci-fi noir, Blade Runner (US, 1982), we encounter a strange Nosferatu-esque creature, which, we are told, is what a human might resemble were smoking a 'natural' activity. With its specially-adapted features the ghoulish human mutant has "'a larger nose that can filter out impurities", "self-cleaning lungs" and "inbuilt resistance to heart disease, lung cancer and thrombosis". The approach is unsettlingly oblique but in the midst of a haze we find ourselves in the clutches of a deadly set of health facts. Broadcast during peak-time viewing, this 'chiller' filler must have bewildered or traumatised many an unsuspecting youngster on their return from school.

Myers also directed the similarly-themed Department of Health shocker, Teenage Anti-Smoking Baby (1986), which warns of the dangerous effects of passive smoking - a growing concern in the early 1980s. Smoker of the Future, with its high concept approach, certainly gives sophisticated 1980s commercial campaigns a run for their money and not surprisingly, won a silver award at the British Advertising Awards in 1986. Myers resumed work in the commercial sector innovating for brands such as Levis, Nike and Lloyds Bank, and became best known for his 1990s spectacular Smirnoff Black campaign.

Katy McGahan

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Anti-Smoking Public Information Films