Anti-smoking digital signage sparks controversy

| by Bradley Cooper
Anti-smoking digital signage sparks controversy

The CDC reports that smoking is "the leading cause of preventable deaths." Tobacco causes almost 6 million deaths annually, and smoking leads to 480,000 deaths annually in the U.S. Sweden is also afflicted by high smoking rates, which killed 12,000 people between 2010 and 2012 and caused 100,000 hospitalizations annually, according to a report by Sveriges Radio. One Swedish pharmacy attempted to address smoking in a direct way through an augmented reality digital signage campaign.

The Swedish pharmacy Hjärtat teamed up with Clear Channel and advertising agency Akestam Holst to deploy a display with built-in smoke detectors in a busy plaza in Stockholm. Whenever a pedestrian starts to smoke near the display, a man on the display will begin to cough.

The goal of the campaign, according to a video, is to, "To help you get new and healthier habits just in time for the new year." The slogan of the campaign is, "New year, new resolutions." The pharmacy deployed the screen in a plaza that is a popular gathering place for smokers. In the video, several smokers seem surprised by the display, while others seem to find it amusing.

On the company's Facebook page, many commentators expressed support for the campaign, believing it to be an effective tool to showcase the damage of smoking. However, others on the company's Youtube channel questioned the campaign's effectiveness. Gabriel Beltrone, a writer for Ad Week, believes the campaign might backfire.

"If anything is going to convince a smoker to quit, it's a judgmental, passive-aggressive, coughing billboard. At least that's the ostensible premise of a new campaign from Swedish pharmacy Apoteket Hjärtat and agency Åkestam Holst," Beltrone said in the article.

Beltrone believes the "campaign's heart is in the right place," but he's not sure if it is truly effective.

"First, most smokers these days know that smoking is bad for them, and they choose to do it anyway. Second, advertising is a generally intrusive medium to begin with. Being deliberately more intrusive—nagging adults for their unhealthy choices—doesn't do the brand any favors," Beltrone said.

To see the campaign, watch the video below.

Image via video from Apoteket Hjärtat.

Topics: DOOH Advertising, Healthcare / Hospitals, Trends / Statistics

Bradley Cooper

Bradley Cooper is a Technology Editor for and His background is in information technology, advertising, and writing.

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