Government injects humour into this year’s Stoptober push

The Government is to inject humour into its annual Stoptober stop smoking marketing initiative for the first time in the hope taking on a new approach will lead to an improvement on last year’s results.

This year’s campaign from Public Health England (PHE), the executive body responsible for executing the Government’s public health strategy, will feature comedians Paddy McGuiness, Al Murray, “Lee Nelson”-creator Simon Brodkin and Andi Osho.

The ambassadors will star in a 3-minute sketch show aired during ITV’s Emmerdale as part of a 7-week £3.2m campaign that launches today (8 September).

The show will be supported with additional 30-second and 10-second TV spots, radio, national press, cinema, digital and social ads.

PHE says social media will play a lead role in offering support to quitters by sending “encouraging comedic content” when they are likely to suffer from cravings. Stoptober’s Facebook page and Twitter accounts will also host a lunchtime takeover by a comedian on 1 October, the first day of the challenge.

As with previous years, smokers signing up to the 28-day cigarette-free challenge will receive a support pack and will have access to a mobile app, daily SMS and emails and a website to help them through the challenge.

Sheila Mitchell, Public Health England marketing director, says: “Our approach of using insight-led content generated by our comedians, delivered in a timely manner through the channels our audience consumes, will help people throughout what can be a difficult and intimidating challenging.

“It’s a common British trait to use our sense of humour to help get through difficult times, so comedy is an excellent route to helping people stay motivated, as well as providing them with the necessary distractions, when quitting.”

Last year’s Stoptober push failed to meet its target, according to PHE’s annual report. Just 250,000 people signed up in October 2013, down from 275,000 registrations recorded a year earlier.

The 130,000 successful quits recorded last year also fell short of its 160,000 target despite a high profile campaign that PHE claimed was “bigger and cleverer” than previous efforts.

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