When I hear the word smoking, my initial thought is not of someone my age puffing on a cigarette with his or her friends outside or a classroom or restaurant. Unfortunately, the reality of the situation is that that is the exact image people should be picturing. Many organizations have released advertisements aimed to stop young people from smoking or to get them to quit. Two ads in particular that should be highlighted are the Left Swipe Dat ad by the truth and the FDA’s series of The Real Cost ads. Both commercials have the same message – stop young people from smoking – but they go about their relaying of the message in very different ways.
The first advertisement, which was released one year ago, is entitled Left Swipe Dat and it was produced by an organization whose goal is to spread awareness about teenage smoking. The video features celebrities, widely recognized by students of middle and high school age, like Becky G and Fifth Harmony. The premise of the video is to call attention to young people smoking, rather than to persuade them to quit. The actors in the video are on a dating app like Tinder and they are pointing out how gross and unattractive it is that some of the profile pictures they are seeing include cigarettes.
As for the second advertisement, or set of advertisements I am going to analyze, we need to look at the US Food and Drug Administration. The FDA released their take on a teenage smoking ad complain within the last year as well. The FDA produced a series of advertisements with a dark and negative outlook on smoking which were aired as commercials both on television and online. In one video, we see a young girl, probably in her teens or earlier twenties, approaching a convenient store counter to purchase a carton of menthols. When she goes to pay for the menthols, the cashier tells her that the money she placed on the counter is not going to be enough. To the cashier’s amazement, the girl peels off part of her cheek skin and offers it as additional payment. The ad’s message is that smoking ruins your healthy, young, beautiful skin.
The FDA’s The Real Cost advertisements are a far cry from the truth’s Left Swipe Dat music video. For example, in the advertisements published by the US Food and Drug Administration, scare tactics are used to get teens to quit smoking. Their main message is that tobacco is a bully and takes over your life. The FDA does a great job of taking every day situations and turning them into alarming examples of how smoking is omnipresent. Unlike the upbeat and whimsical Left Swipe Dat video, these ads are designed to shock teens into realizing that they are wasting away their precious adolescent years. There is no fluff in the FDA advertisements, most likely on purpose. In another advertisement in the The Real Cost series, we see a science classroom where the teacher is performing a science experiment. The teacher begins listing how the chemicals he is using in the experiment are very harmful. He lists effects like stunted lung growth and cancer as two examples of what the chemicals cause. Then, the creature comes alive and terrifies the students. The message of the ad is that if cigarettes looked as dangerous as they are, no one would smoke them.
One commonplace that can be seen in the Left Swipe Dat ad is that smoking is unattractive and may discourage a person from pursuing a romantic relationship with a partner if they smoke. While there is no mention of how smoking portrays a person in the FDA’s videos, this theme is a major part of the truth’s advertisement. The commonplace functions within the artifact because the actors are swiping left to profiles with cigarettes in the picture. Since only 8% of teens still smoke, the point of the ad is to call to action all teenagers to get their friends to stop smoking. Groups that are most likely to support this commonplace would be groups of teens who don’t smoke or who know the dangers of smoking. On the other hand, smokers will not accept these claims because they may believe that it’s not a deal breaker. The timing of this ad is perfect because a lot of the people featured in the video strongly appeal to the pre-teens and young people who are at risk right now of picking up a cigarette.
A second commonplace that is widely understood in the Left Swipe Dat ad is that in today’s world of hookup culture, first impressions are very important. The ad uses the presumption that physical attributes matter a significant amount when looking for a partner. Whether that be a guy judging a girl on wearing too little makeup or a woman not approaching a man because he isn’t physically fit, vanity is a dangerous component of dating in today’s culture. The commonplace unfolds throughout the video as the actors are describing the attractive qualities in the profile pictures but then they swipe left because of the cigarette. Examples that are given in the music video are the adorable kitten in the picture or the woman who was in a cute workout outfit. With respect to the commonplace that online dating is a mostly physical game, we see the actors mentioning the girl’s choice of makeup and the statue’s six-pack of abs.
When comparing the two advertisements, there are several similarities and differences between the two. Both advertisements use everyday situations to appeal to a broad audience. For example, the Left Swipe Dat video takes place in a park and on a bus. Meanwhile, the FDA’s ads take place in a school classroom and at a convenience store. Another similarity that both videos possess is a comparable target audience. Both advertisements are aimed at pre-teens and teenagers. A third similarity between the two advertisements is their use of physical vanity as a selling point. As a caveat, even though both videos use vanity as a factor of smoking, it is used in two entirely different ways. In the FDA’s commercial, we see a girl who is forced to give part of her skin to the cashier to make the point that smoking is a sacrifice. In the Left Swipe Dat ad, the actors are judging their prospective dates based on how they are dressed and their physique. I think the FDA videos are more straightforward about who they are targeting, even though we as the audience can tell that both ads are aimed towards kids, rather than adults. An important distinction between the two ads is their lengths. All of the FDA’s ads are under forty-five seconds, while the Left Swipe Dat music video is over three minutes. I think that is one of the big advantages for the FDA is that they do not lose their audience after a minute or two. They are able to quickly pull in their viewers and deliver a timely and effective message.
One technique that the FDA uses that makes it stand out from the Left Swipe Dat ad is their use of scare tactics. Cigarettes are personified as an alien like creature in one of the FDA ads to show all of the disgusting chemicals that go into one cigarette. The purpose is to illustrate how dangerous smoking is and how we do not always think about the carcinogens and other chemicals that enter your body through cigarettes. The audience is shocked as the alien creature transforms into a pack of cigarettes.
One ideology or underlying belief that I deem serves to connect the two commonplaces together, and is upheld by both advertisements, is the idea that smoking is disgusting and dangerous. Smoking is unattractive and it usually defines a person in a negative way. Most people would agree that smoking is a major health risk. While some smokers believe that clinging to a cigarette is attractive, they’re living their lives according to the outdated philosophy that smoking is beautiful. These commonplaces invite viewers to form interpretations of the artifacts by offering an abundance of potential examples of how someone can be good looking but no amount of beauty or fame can offset the fact that they smoke.