Hailed by CNN as what might be “the best public service announcement ever…”, and recognised with a Cannes Bronze Integrated Lion at the 60th annual Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, the Social Farter project used behaviour change insight and planning to the engage hardest-to-reach of all smoker segments: social smokers.

In collaboration with Ontario Ministry of Health (MoH) and BBDO Toronto, we used audience co-creation to develop insight along with behaviour change strategy and planning to answer the question: how do you get someone to quit smoking, when they don’t think they smoke!?

A series of interactive co-creation workshops with audience members and key agency staff unearthed the killer insight that drove the entire campaign: social smokers don’t want to be seen as smokers. In fact, they use ‘social smoking’ as a safe place to avoid assuming a smoker identity: “yeah, I smoke, but I’m not smoker!”

In execution The ‘Quit The Denial’ campaign, centred around a series of viral videos and a strong social media presence, aims to communicate one clear message—social smoking is still smoking. The campaign, which compares ‘social’ smoking behaviours to a range of unflattering and ridiculous activities (farting, earwax picking, etc.), aims to reframe smoking behaviours in the minds of the audience and wider community—transforming social smoking from an acceptable and innocuous activity, into a social faux-pas.

Hailed by CNN as what might be “the best public service announcement ever…”, our work with the MoH and BBDO is a clear example of how powerful audience insights, co-creation principles and partnership working can transform a seemingly insurmountable challenge—encouraging “non-smokers” to quit—into an opportunity to effect real change amongst hard-to-reach audiences.