Government revives ‘bigger’ and ‘cleverer’ Stoptober anti-smoking push

The Department of Health is reviving its multi-million pound anti-smoking Stoptober initiative to try to convince more than 160,000 smokers to quit for at least a month.


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The Movember-inspired campaign, developed by the DoH’s executive body Public Health England, takes place for 28 days from 1 October.

It follows the success of last year’s debut Stoptober event that saw 160,000 people complete the challenge and will offer smokers a range of support through TV, radio, mobile and Facebook activity. PHE says the £3.5m campaign differs from last year by adopting a “cleverer use of digital” and more brand support from the likes of Nike and Boots.

Digital outdoor ads will be introduced across cities to reveal how many local smokers are participating in the event. The Stoptober mobile app has also been revamped to give smokers more personalisation options, while organisers will encourage participants to motivate one another through Facebook and Twitter. Meanwhile, the Army is joining the initiative with activity created to reach over 1 million employees with Stoptober messaging.

Sheila Mitchell, marketing director at PHE told Marketing Week the campaign aims to go “bigger and better” than last year’s challenge. Previous Government stop smoking initiatives have urged smokers to quit by attempting to shock people into action and focusing on the harm inflicted on others. The strategies, however, have lacked a call to action that could translate into a collective movement, Mitchell adds.

She says: “We’ll be pushing the fact that last year we had more than 160,000 smokers complete the challenge. When we went back to people after last year’s Stoptober and said 160,000 gave up smoking for 28 days and were five times more likely to quit as a result it gave us a more sizeable number for them to understand. That number will be our core proposition this year.

“The success of Stotober really surprised us last year because it was the first time we created a collective movement to encourage smokers to quit. While some of the campaigns we work on will need to be more informative, for upcoming lifestyle and societal campaigns we’ll look at how we can adapt the mass participation model that has worked so well for us already.”

Elsewhere, PHE is working on the concept for the follow-up to its hard-hitting advert from earlier this year that showed a tumour growing on a cigarette while it was being smoked.

The Government spent £13.1m on anti-smoking marketing, 7 per cent of the DoH’s total budget, in the last financial year.

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