Offering Washington Tobacco Users a Helping Hand
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Offering Washington Tobacco Users a Helping Hand

MWW/Savitt’s goal for the launch of the Quit Line was to motivate tobacco users to call the Quit Line by taking DOH’s message right to where smokers live.

Paul Holmes

In November of 2000, MWW/Savitt was tasked with launching a statewide, toll-free Tobacco Quit Line for the Washington State Department of Health (DOH).  MWW/Savitt’s goal for the launch of the Quit Line was to motivate tobacco users to call the Quit Line by taking DOH’s message right to where smokers live.  In an effort to achieve this goal outside of traditional television, print, radio and outdoor advertising, MWW/Savitt developed a series of posters to hang in the common areas of buildings where people congregate to smoke, such as parking garages, building entrances and loading docks. To ensure that posters where hung in known smoking areas of office buildings and federal municipal buildings across the state, MWW/Savitt successfully pursued and partnered with building owners and managers in eastern and western Washington. 
 
In the development of the posters, MWW/Savitt and DOH decided to take an untraditional approach with tobacco users, offering them a “helping hand” in the quitting process rather than the traditional hammering of information.  This proved to be the correct approach, and through great creative and effective placement of the Quit Line posters, they received an overwhelming response from the smoking community and set a good pace for the Quit Line, therefore achieving MWW/Savitt’s goals.
 
BACKGROUND
 
As a result of the Master Settlement Agreement between several states and “Big Tobacco” companies, Washington state was awarded an estimated $4.5 billion which it will receive over the next 25 years.  A comprehensive tobacco prevention and control program was designed by the state’s Department of Health as part of a statewide campaign to prevent and reduce smoking and other tobacco use among Washington residents.  The Tobacco Quit Line is an integral component of the overall program offering Washington residents a valuable resource to use in quitting their tobacco habits.
 
In the past, tobacco cessation services have consistently presented themselves to the public in an aggressive manner, hammering tobacco users with a negative message rather than an empathetic one.  DOH wanted to try something different.  They wanted to offer a Tobacco Quit Line that would lend smokers a sympathetic ear while offering them one-on-one counseling as well as referrals to local services, all in an effort to help them end their dependence on tobacco products.  This approach is reflected in DOH’s overall program tagline, Offering Washington tobacco users a helping hand.
 
OBJECTIVES
 
MWW/Savitt was hired as part of a $5.3 million media advocacy campaign.  In conjunction with an advertising campaign, the firm was responsible for driving an estimated 12,000 calls to the Quit Line by June 2001.  It was important for MWW/Savitt to set the pace of these calls with the Quit Line launch.
 
MWW/Savitt scheduled the Quit Line launch for November 15, 2000, the day before the annual Great American Smoke-Out.  This gave DOH an opportunity to not only combine a new program with a more established program recognized by the community and media, but also the opportunity to offer tobacco users a resource they could use in conjunction with those offered by the Great American Smoke-Out.
 
RESEARCH
 
The Tobacco Quit Line is the first resource of its kind to be offered to Washington residents, however, quit lines have been proven to be effective in helping people quit tobacco in many other states.  The Quit Line operates statewide as a toll-free service for tobacco users to get one-on-one counseling and referrals to local tobacco cessation programs.  Group Health Cooperative, a local and well-known HMO, manages the Quit Line. 
 
In preparing for the launch of the Quit Line, MWW/Savitt and DOH had several resources to draw from for insight and inspiration.  Other state quit lines, including those in California, Oregon, Montana and Utah, were already active, and program directors, quit line operators and other key players provided the MWW/Savitt team with a great deal of information about public approach, perception and reaction.  Each of these Quit Lines launches and operations served as case studies from which to base DOH’s efforts.
 
In looking at different approaches and how to effectively reach tobacco users, the MWW/Savitt team realized that not only would a more understanding and helpful approach be welcome, but taking the message to the places where people actually smoke or use tobacco could have great impact.  One place where the campaign could readily target smokers was in the workplace.  Most Washington workplaces are smoke-free environments, forcing smokers outside, in parking garages and other areas that are not particularly comfortable or relaxing, especially in inclement weather.  Through anecdotal interviews, MWW/Savitt learned that our target audience would be receptive to innovative, creative messages regarding tobacco use at the locations where they smoke.  Furthermore, by placing messaging in these marginalized environments, DOH could target tobacco users where the addiction is seen most openly for what it is.
 
PLANNING
 
The MWW/Savitt team decided that the best vehicle for delivering messages in these marginalized workplace environments was a poster.  The poster can perform as an advertisement as well as a form of guerilla marketing: it can be up one day or down the next, as well as be replaced easily if defaced or removed.  Again, the strategy was to take the Quit Line posters right to where smokers live: the parking garages, loading docks and building entrances where smokers congregate.
 
Once the vehicle was decided, the team focused on distribution.  The team sent pitch letters and set up meetings with state building owners and managers statewide.  Eventually a partnership with the Building Owners and Managers Associations (BOMA) of Seattle, Tacoma and Spokane was secured, granting DOH access to more than 400 buildings.  The team also worked with more than 30 federal and state municipal building managers and similar managers at colleges and universities in all major municipalities within the state to place posters in common areas of their buildings.  Several federal offices volunteered to take on greater roles by placing posters throughout their communities as well. 
 
In developing the creative for the posters, the MWW/Savitt team and DOH opted to produce four different concepts to add variety and interest to the campaign.  Each poster had a humorous or “helping hand” approach and all offered perforated tear-off slips with the Quit Line number printed on it.  The selected poster creative tested well in smoker focus groups.
 
The goal was to have the posters hanging in as many office and municipal buildings as possible throughout western and eastern Washington.   The cooperation and participation of building owners and managers as well as federal building supervisors would be critical to the success of the effort to hang the posters on Monday, November 13, 2000, two days before the official Quit Line Launch on November 15.  The posters would then hang for the week of the launch of the Quit Line or until they were removed.
 
EXECUTION
 
The posters were printed and mailed out for arrival on November 10.  More than 2,500 posters were put up during the week of November 13, 2000. 
 
EVALUATION
 
The MWW/Savitt team reached its building partnership goals.  By partnering with BOMA of Seattle, Spokane and Tacoma the posters were distributed to buildings throughout the state and in all major cities.  Furthermore, by partnering with more than 30 federal municipal building and state universities MWW/Savitt was able to reach a greater number of cities outside of business districts as well as a greater number of rural areas throughout the state.
 
According to a report generated by Group Health Cooperative, the HMO who manages the Quit Line, there were more than twenty calls the day prior to the launch of the Quit Line.  Group Health attributed these calls to the “helping hand” posters.  Group Health was able to determine this response through a series of questions that is conducted with each caller to determine where they heard about the resource. 
 
The Washington Quit Line received 182 calls on its first day of operation; more calls than any other state Quit Line.  Montana previously had the highest volume of calls with 53 calls in the first week of operation, 322 calls within the first month and 608 calls in their four months of operation.  Meanwhile the Oregon Quit Line in their first week of operation received 51 calls, in the first full month received 155 calls and at the end of their first year had received 6,320 calls.  The Washington state Quit Line has rapidly surpassed these numbers, receiving 355 calls on the second day of operation alone, 1,057 calls by the end of the first week, 2,597 calls in the first month and as of February 18 has received 5,066 calls.  According to the Group Health report, MWW/Savitt has generated a large number of these calls through its media advocacy efforts, such as the Quit Line posters and building partnerships.
 
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