Each day more than 3,000 kids become regular smokers – 85 a day in New Jersey alone. If current trends continue, more than 135,000 of today’s New Jersey teens will eventually die from a tobacco-related illnesses.
In November 2000, Fleishman-Hillard (F-H) and the New Jersey Department of Health & Senior Services (DHSS) brought together more than 340 New Jersey youth for “Kick Ash Weekend.” These teens, from all counties in the state and representing New Jersey’s diverse ethnic population, learned the most current information on tobacco issues and addictions, developed peer leadership and advocacy skills and laid the groundwork for a continuing statewide youth movement. The teens named their movement, Rebel (Reaching Everyone By Exposing Lies), to combat manipulative tobacco industry marketing tactics.
In 2001, F-H worked with partner agencies BBDO-Minneapolis (advertising) and J Curtis (multicultural outreach) to create a strong statewide movement with non-smoking as the norm.
RESEARCH—The Unfiltered Truth
Research conducted for the 1999 NJ Youth Tobacco Survey found that 10.5 percent of middle school students and 27.6 percent of high school students smoke cigarettes.
Although the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement between the tobacco industry and 45 states prohibited advertising to youth, the FTC reported the largest cigarette manufacturers spent $8.24 billion on advertising and promotions in 1999, a 22.3 percent increase from the last pre-MSA year.
Market research conducted in 1999 by Just Kids Inc. found that New Jersey teens seem eager to find a movement to associate themselves with and are especially receptive to programs involving kid-to-kid action.
DHSS sponsored a series of focus groups among 8th- and 10th-graders that showed NJ teens are aware of the health risks associated with tobacco use and that the tobacco industry targets them. Many expressed the desire to reduce tobacco use in their communities and to prevent young people from starting to smoke.
An audit of successful youth movements including the Truth, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids and Students Working Against Tobacco revealed teens are not motivated to stop smoking for health concerns, but respond positively to youth-driven social movements geared to achieve action.
An audit of established anti-tobacco youth programs show marked success: Florida reduced smoking in middle school by 40 percent and high school by 17 percent in two years; Mississippi reduced smoking in middle school by 21 percent and high school by 10 percent in three years.
Secondary research findings on teenage Internet practices showed teenagers and children constitute one of the fastest growing Internet populations in the U.S., with the number of 2-to-17-year-olds online tripling from 1997 to 2000.
STRATEGIC APPROACH—Rebels with a Cause
· Prevent and reduce the spread of tobacco use among New Jersey teenagers and other members of their community.
· Promote a grassroots youth community movement that views tobacco use as socially unacceptable.
· Create a youth-driven social movement that appeals to teens and focuses on peer-to-peer connections to stimulate youth participation throughout the state
· Create awareness about the dangers of tobacco use through the media and word-of-mouth.
· Use the Internet and local grassroots activities to deliver strong messages of tobacco empowerment and independence to counter the influence of the tobacco industry’s youth marketing tactics.
· Appeal to teens with messages about the effects of tobacco on appearance (e.g., yellow teeth, smelly breath) as opposed to long-term health risks, which do not resonate with teens.
Primary Target Audience - New Jersey teenagers, ages 13 to 17.
Challenges—F-H set out to advance Rebel into a program that would appeal to New Jersey’s multicultural teen community in urban, suburban and rural areas and empower them to combat tobacco. At the same time, F-H and its partner agencies had to compete for teen attention on a limited annual budget of $3.3 million against the tobacco industry’s $157 million, which had been highly effective in persuading teens to smoke.
EXECUTION/TACTICS—Not For Sale
In February 2001, F-H proposed and implemented a statewide youth rally at the Liberty Science Center to launch the new “Not For Sale” ad campaign, developed by BBDO; and njrebel.com, the innovative F-H Web site. By holding the rally in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, F-H emphasized the independence from Big Tobacco theme, building momentum for the movement in the process. Over 700 New Jersey teens attended, from all 21 counties. F-H worked with Rebel leaders to host the rally and introduce the key speakers, Christine Grant, DHSS Commissioner, and Donald DiFrancesco, in his first major appearance as Acting Governor.
To involve all participants, F-H created a large parchment-like scroll, Rebel’s “Declaration Of Independence From Tobacco.” Rebel leaders unveiled the scroll at the rally. “Sign on” boards were placed throughout the site for teens to affirm their commitment not to smoke. Since the rally, the scroll has traveled to events throughout the state. The entire event was Web cast on njrebel.com. However, the “Not for Sale” launch was just the beginning of an exciting year for Rebel…
F-H developed the lively Web site njrebel.com as an interactive forum for members to share ideas and information, alert them to upcoming meetings and events and spread the Rebel message. njrebel.com promotes ownership from NJ teens by incorporating member photos from state and local events as a key graphical element throughout the site. Rebel members are also the subjects of Real Stories, in which they share their experiences with tobacco. Photos and Real Stories are updated regularly to retain member interest.
More recently F-H added the “Members Only” Download Center, following an audit of “Contact Us” queries. The most common request was for a Rebel T-shirt or related materials. Accordingly, “Members Only” provides teens with access to Rebel posters, fliers, postcards, iron-on T-shirt decals and other materials for promoting local Rebel events.
Rebel members take an active leadership role in their communities to spread their message to teens and to promote tobacco control issues in their communities. Rebel groups are organized in each of New Jersey’s 21 counties through Communities Against Tobacco (CATs) coalitions. Rebel groups work with a state-funded youth coordinator to develop and implement local action plans that combat tobacco use.
To help members create their own local recruitment efforts and plan their own events, F-H provided Rebel chapters with template materials, including press releases and advisories, event planning guides, and their own Declaration of independence from tobacco signature boards. In addition, F-H organized various Rebel multi-county events and conducted media outreach surrounding each event:
African-American Day Parade
In May 2001, J Curtis launched a new advertising campaign to reach the state’s multicultural communities at the African-American Heritage Festival and Parade in Newark. F-H initiated a plan for Rebel members to man their own parade float and booth, handing out specially created buttons and brochures sporting the quit smoking message and information about New Jersey’s quit smoking services.
In May 2001, F-H participated in two regional summits (north and south New Jersey) to inform and motivate new and existing Rebel members on ways to combat tobacco industry tactics. At the Summits, F-H held a workshop for Rebel Youth Coordinators to show them how to promote Rebel in their local media. F-H also played a video covering Rebel highlights to date, graphically displaying accomplishments and motivating future members. The youth video has been duplicated for all chapters and serves as a major recruitment tool.
“Bust Your Butts On The Beach” Day
In August 2001, F-H conducted a Rebel Beach clean up in which nearly 700 Rebel members came out to clean up over 35,000 cigarette butts and other litter along the New Jersey shore along with state and local officials. The results were used in a Department of Environmental Protection Report about the dangers of cigarette butts in the environment.
F-H scripted and taped three :30 spots to air throughout the school year on Channel One, a closed circuit TV station which airs in 308 New Jersey schools, with an estimated audience of 214,889 teens each time they run. These spots featured actual Rebel members encouraging others to join the movement, and have been tremendously successful in building new membership. A fourth spot shows the popular Giants player, Tiki Barber, praising Rebel and encouraging others to take part in the movement.
EVALUATION/MEASUREMENT OF SUCCESS
With nearly 100 million media impressions, F-H’s media results exceeded that of many national campaigns, helping to drive awareness, membership and Web site interaction.
Rebel membership has increased from under 500 to nearly 5,000 members since February 2001.
Since the launch of njrebel.com in February 2001:
· njrebel.com hosted 16,762 unique visitors; 90 percent found it through advertising, public relations or word of mouth.
· The average visitor in November spent 20:33 minutes on the Web site; national average Web site time spent is 10:08 minutes.
· Nearly 500 teens submitted Shout Outs;
· njrebel.com has recorded over 110,000 page views from February to November 2001.
Following the broadcast of the Channel One spots and a new “Not For Sale” ad campaign, there was a 100 percent increase in visitors to njrebel.com, resulting in 271 new members and over 200 information requests.
Visitors to njrebel.com increased 8.5 percent, from 5,508 in July to 5,982 in August, following the beach clean-up.
2,347 Rebel teens have signed the “Not for Sale” Declaration of Independence from Tobacco.
Placements included features in all New Jersey dailies; Time for Kids, YM, Seventeen, Teen People and on the “CBS Early Show” and “Fox & Friends.” Coverage also included a number of multicultural media outlets including La Voz, India Post and El Especial.
The DHSS tobacco use survey following the first year of Rebel will not be available until April 2002. However, rapidly growing membership and Web site momentum are early indications that Rebel will replicate the success of youth campaigns in Florida and Mississippi, which demonstrated reduced teen smoking within 2-3 years.
F-H received numerous testimonials from New Jersey Teens about the Rebel movement…
I am very excited to have found njrebel.com through YM Magazine. Nothing like this is ever in NJ. This is wonderful. Is there a Rebel chapter in Union County? -- Lindsay, age 15
I am highly active in smoke-free activities in my school and I think that what you people are doing is great. I’m interested in joining! -- Joanna, age 14
I would like to make a difference about smoking in my county/town. Can you give me suggestions on what to do? -- Sarah, age 13