Media

Mass media and social marketing

Mass media and social marketing campaigns aim to reduce the number of people who smoke by changing attitudes, beliefs and intentions surrounding tobacco use. Mass media campaigns take a traditional marketing approach to this aim, treating the desire to be smoke-free as a product to be sold. In contrast, social marketing uses knowledge of specific community barriers to develop more targeted marketing approaches.

Both approaches use education about the negative consequences of smoking and the benefits of not smoking for two purposes:

  • to prevent the uptake of smoking (particularly in young people)
  • to promote quit attempts in current smokers.

It is thought these campaigns help to prevent smoking by changing people’s expectations toward smoking, so that tobacco use is no longer accepted as the ‘usual, cool or necessary thing to do.’

There is evidence that both mass media and social marketing campaigns can help prevent smoking from starting, encourage people to stop smoking, and prevent relapse among recent quitters by reminding them about why they chose to stop smoking. However one of the biggest effects is in relation to promoting access to cessation support services such as

, counselling and other health professionals. Developing capacity to support people who are ready to quit – by taking the systems approach described under Planning, is therefore essential if programs are to be sustainable.

A campaign’s impact is influenced by:

  • repetition – the more often the messages are heard, the more likely they are to sink in
  • reach – how far the messages are spread, how large the audience is
  • intensity – how regularly the messages are heard
  • how long the campaign is – it needs to be long enough for all target audiences to have heard the message but not so long that they get sick of it and tune out.

The relevance of the message has been found to be important for audience engagement. The context, characters and role models used in advertising or community activities must seem believable, if smokers are to connect to them. When a campaign does not relate to how people see themselves, they find it hard to become interested in the content. While there is some evidence that mass media campaigns do influence attitudes and beliefs of Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders in regard to smoking, more specific local messages tailored for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people seem to be most effective. Evidence from 

 project also supports the importance of using targeted advertising.

The Australian Government’s 

campaign is a good example of how advertising and community-based activities can work together to encourage behaviour change among Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander smokers. You can adapt and use these materials and resources for your own activities.

Further reading