What? The American Legacy Foundation's www.bobquits.com anti-smoking campaign. Washington-area ads for the media campaign, which is modeled on reality television programs, direct smokers to a slick Internet site, where average guy Bob's journal entries and videos (a camera crew followed him around) documented his first month struggling to beat a 20-year, pack-a-day habit. The site encouraged viewers to call the foundation to get help quitting themselves.
Why? According to Chris Cullen, the foundation's executive vice president, "We talked to a lot of people trying to quit" while the campaign was in development. "What people missed most was a sense that success is possible. . . . We hoped to show people it can be done, but that it is hard and complex."
Does it work? Mass media campaigns are one of the "biggest pushes" that get people to call a quitline -- phone services that have proven effective in increasing callers' chances of quitting smoking -- said Joanne Pike, quitline director for the American Cancer Society. The reality TV spin brings quitting to a human level, she said. "If you're able to see someone slip and keep trying, you might be able to incorporate that [attitude]."
Reruns? Though the campaign, which ends June 30, is new to Washington, that's all that's new. Bob's journal and videos are the same that New Yorkers saw in January, and each entry is already posted online. It remains to be seen whether "real guy" Bob (actual name: Ethan Teicher), a 35-year-old sheet-metal worker from Brooklyn, will resonate with Washington smokers.
Butts Teicher, who was paid a $500 to participate, says he smoked four cigarettes in April. But he's been clean since.
American Legacy Foundation's Call Center: 800-399-5589
-- Matt McMillen