Viewpoint: Cancer Research UK’s head of health campaigns and marketing

Abigail Brown, Cancer Research UK’s head of health and campaigns and marketing talks about what’s important for a campaign when trying to change consumer behaviour.

abigail brown
Abigail Brown

Evidence shows that mass media campaigns that focus on negative health effects, such as the Government’s new anti-smoking ad, are effective at increasing motivation to quit. But there’s no single solution to the problem. The majority of smokers want to quit but the rate has slightly fallen over recent times. Perhaps that’s to do with the economic environment we’re in and the fact that people have many issues to deal with.

We’ve always called for a comprehensive approach. Some people might be ready to quit but need that little nudge in the right direction. We’ve got fantastic quitting services in the UK that are free, instantly available and accessible on the high street through pharmacies but if people aren’t motivated to act, then you have to try a range of measures.

Given the dominance of the digital landscape, you need to generate conversation online in order to get your message across and it’s the content that achieves that. The Government has been successful in that regard if you consider the huge number of YouTube views for the new anti-smoking advert.

The last tobacco campaign that we ran was Smoke is Poison in 2007, which was about the toxic content of cigarette smoke. That was about giving people new information, which the DoH is doing at the moment – it’s telling people about evidence that 15 cigarettes causes a mutation. Anything that’s news is powerful because people talk about it.

At Cancer Research UK, we’re clear that research is at the heart of everything we do and that it informs the evidence around our health messages We are seen as a credible and authoritative voice so that’s why we lend our support to these types of government campaigns because we know that if the evidence is there and it’s sound, we can help people understand the message and make it credible as well.


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