Denouncing industry manipulation

Following the example of the abrupt change in tone introduced among the wider public in “Revelation”, the campaign entitled “I am being manipulated” (2001) tackled the issue of teen smoking from a new angle: it revealed the manipulation used by the tobacco industry, in order to show teenagers that the feeling of freedom that they experienced through smoking was false. With its hard-hitting and explicit message, the campaign directly highlighted the tobacco industry’s responsibility while moving into new media territory used by young people (the campaign included a dedicated website). This new tactic went on to be used in several subsequent campaigns.

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Toxic Corp, broadcast in 2004 and 2005, was the most striking campaign of all. With regard to the dual fact that tobacco is not a product like any other but yet it obeys, like any product, a certain commercial logic, INPES, in partnership with the Alliance Against Tobacco, created a fake recruitment drive by the tobacco industry. Aside from its purposely cynical and offbeat tone, this communication campaign introduced a new dialectic, based on accountability and growing awareness. In it, the truth about the risks associated with smoking was presented head on, while avoiding the pitfalls of preaching. The film therefore appealed to young people’s critical sense, their instinctive distrustfulness and their ability to decipher the underlying message. Over and above the film, however, the campaign centred on the creation – as a parody – of a realistic brand identity, “Toxic Corp”, with its associated codes of communication (logo, signature, company website, etc.), corporate values and product: cigarettes. The website was the keystone of the campaign: on it, young people were invited to discover for themselves the strategies employed by the tobacco industry through actual documents from tobacco manufacturers which were made public following court proceedings at the end of the 1990s and through video clips. In order to cover its tracks and to push the logical course of the company “Toxic Corp” as far as possible, it was only on the website that the true sources behind the campaign were identified. The media strategy was also designed to prompt a viral phenomenon, without compromising the “confidential” nature which was necessary in order for young people to seize this campaign and themselves become vectors of its dissemination.

In 2008, work on how tobacco is represented was continued in order to show young people that the act of smoking is not an affirmation of their freedom but rather a slide into addiction led by the tobacco industry, with the campaign “Don’t let cigarettes decide for you”. This campaign portrayed a character, symbolising smoking and the manipulation of the tobacco industry, which insidiously guided the actions of young people in everyday situations, leading them to light up a cigarette. Shown in the cinema, on television and supported by a dedicated website and by practical actions, it enjoyed great success, although this was moderated by the complexity of the message which simultaneously tackled the subjects of addiction and manipulation.

Thanh Le Luong
Director General at - INPES Director General | + posts

Thanh was appointed Director General of the Institut national de prévention et d'éducation pour la santé (the National Institute for Prevention and Health Education) in December 2008. As head of this public body, she is in charge of the implementation of the preventive element of the Ministry for Health’s public health plans, which is mainly illustrated by carrying out measures relating to expertise, information and communication concerning the different health risk factors (alcohol, tobacco, HIV and AIDS, nutrition, etc.), in partnership with local networks and agents in the field of health education and health promotion.