Alex Blaze

Ads that don't work: French smoking ad and the Tim Tebow anti-choice ad revisited

Filed By Alex Blaze | February 24, 2010 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Media, Politics
Tags: Focus on the Family, France, smoking

Just because an ad says something doesn't mean that it's message is going to get through. Take this French ad that's supposed to be anti-smoking, even though all I see at first glance is a hot guy getting some action, and that action is a cigarette:


More after the jump.

Here are the other two ads from the campaign:



Maybe I'm just not in touch with the kids today, but, to me, that ad seems to valorize smoking. Sure, it'll probably get attention, but getting attention isn't an end in and of itself. The org that designed it seems a bit confused:

"The younger you begin to smoke, the stronger the addiction," Mr. de la Fuente said in an interview. "But young people think they're invincible. They like to flirt with danger." He added that young people saw smoking as a symbol of emancipation, a passage to adulthood and a "transgressive act."

You know what else is a "transgressive act," a "symbol of emancipation"? Sex. And teens want to have sex. So telling them smoking is as cool as sex doesn't seem to be the right message.

Unless, of course, you assume that all teens are straight and male and homophobic and for them giving someone a blow job would be an act of humiliation that they'd have to be forced into. But what about the gay boys, who already smoke at higher rates than the general population? I'm sure there's a message that speaks to everyone that's shocking. Not everything shocking has to be about sex.

The slogan, which compares smoking to sexual slavery even though most teens probably won't even read it, just makes the whole thing offensive, for no reason at all. Teens aren't going to think, "Remember that anti-smoking ad that compared sexual slavery to smoking? That was really offensive, considering it trivialized the plight of thousands of women and children. I guess I won't buy cigarettes now."

Another ad whose message didn't quite get through was the Focus on the Family/Tim Tebow ad. It didn't mention the fact that it was against abortion. If anything, it seemed to me like an ad about a mother standing by her gay son. The mainstream media said that people who complained were punk'd because it was such a soft-sell, although I really just think FOTF wasted their money. And some folks were still mad that the URL got shown, although I doubt there were many people watching the Super Bowl with their laptops open ready to type in whatever random URL they saw.

Turns out not too many people really understand the Tebow ad it either (via Karen):

While millions of Americans watched the commercial, many viewers expressed confusion regarding the commercial's meaning and sponsor. In fact, when asked to describe what they thought the main message to be, one-fifth of viewers (20%) were not able to venture a guess about the ad's main message. A minority of ad viewers described it as anti-abortion (38%) although the commercial never used that term or discussed that procedure. Another 19% thought it was about being pro-family or expressing that family is important.

Further reflecting the confusion on the part of many viewers, alternative interpretations of the commercial included: reminding people that miracles happen and Tim Tebow was a miracle baby (9%); stressing the importance of the parent-child relationship (5%); asking people to visit the sponsor's website (2%); or helping people think about healthcare issues (1%). In addition, another 7% identified some other type of primary message.

The sponsor of the commercial was also a mystery to most viewers. Just 14% of those who viewed the commercial accurately identified Focus on the Family as the organization behind the advertisement. In total, 6% mentioned some other organization or group, while 3% identified the name of the campaign, Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life. Most viewers (78%) admitted they were not sure who sponsored the spot featuring the Heisman-winning Tebow.

38% of people who saw the ad knew what it was for, which I'd guess says more about the controversy than it does about the ad itself. And then the bigger question is if it made anyone actually change their opinion:

Small proportions of viewers of the ad claimed that the commercial was offensive (8%) or that the commercial personally caused them to reconsider their opinion about abortion (6%).

"Reconsider"? Who knows what that means. Margin of error and, presto, the ad didn't happen.

Just running an ad isn't enough. It's supposed to be good. Something anyone following the same-sex marriage campaigns, and their ineffective soft-sells, would already know.

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So what do the ads actually say at the bottom? What's the slogan? You just say that it's offensive and compares smoking to sex slaves.


"Smoking is to be a slave to tobacco" according to Google translation service.

Go figure...

These pictures just creep me out.

Alex, I think you got it right here:

"Unless, of course, you assume that all teens are straight and male and homophobic and for them giving someone a blow job would be an act of humiliation that they'd have to be forced into."

And, of course that any girls who want to suck cock are whores or sluts, etc.

But wait -- doesn't "French" mean oral sex? Just don't give me any freedom fries!

Um, hello? Is everyone here on another planet? These ads are depicting sexual assault. The metaphor is that smoking is like having a much older man force a teenager to give him oral sex. I don't know what's more offensive: this, or everyone's COMPLETE inability to see it.

The thing is, it's not clear that the ads are depicting sexual assault. Yes, it's implied and I can see why people might interpret it that way. But it doesn't have to be interpreted that way. Yes, the man in each image has his hand on the young person's head. But that's actually a common occurrence when the fellatio is consensual even. And the expression on each youth's face is pretty non-descript. Not a scowl or grimace.

In the end, the image can be interpreted a couple different ways.

Yeah, I don't see how it's automatically sexual assault either, unless one reads the caption (then it is). I don't think most people will read the caption, so then it's hard to read as sexual assault.

Liss says that the models are underage, but to me they look well over 15 (I'm guessing they're around 20), which is the age of consent in France. Not that any of us know their exact age.

A hand on the head doesn't mean sexual assault either, and I don't read the facial expression as "fear" so much as "anxiety," or, in the case of the red-head, "anticipation."

And age difference doesn't automatically make it sexual assault. All it means is that some people have hang-ups about intergenerational love and sex, which may or may not stem from deep-seated issues around aging and mortality.

Not that it isn't sexual assault with the caption. But not everyone's going to read that.

renae rhodes | February 25, 2010 8:23 AM

Of course the young male is with a dashing man, while the school girl is with an over weight old man. I thought of Priests and Pedophiles.

This says so many things at so many levels but an anti-smoking ad, I think not!

I saw the ad at SuperBowl, it was not strong, but it's those that slide into the back of your mind.

My sense on the FOTF ad was that CBS ordered it watered down and then watered down some more and then watered down some more after that, to the point where FOTF was left with that mess and waste of money. They probably thought they could then coast on the controversy, but that doesnt seem to have done any good either.

The ads from France? Well, if they wanted an eye catching image, they sure came close... so to speak. I dont know if the art direction was intentonally making the cigarette look like... well, something else... or not, but it sure seems to be the kind of ad that appears bucking more for an industry award than doing any real good for the message itself.

"Yeah, I don't see how it's automatically sexual assault either, unless one reads the caption (then it is)."

So, unless we look at the image, it isn't sexual assault. *blink*

You just admitted it is EXPLICIT sexual assault!

This is why I can't stand this site.

It's entirely possible to look at an image without bothering to read the caption. In my experience, it's actually quite a common practice in fact.

As for the rest of your comment, it seems to me that you're getting rather worked up over such a casual conversation and difference of opinion. That's just my opinion, of course.

Very imaginative and mamorable anti smoking advirtisement , dirty lungs bore me .