A sign that coughs at your cigarette smoke
What looks like a poster at a bus stop is really a video ad that coughs
March 27, 2017
On the streets of Stockholm, Sweden, it’s not uncommon for folks to light up a cigarette while waiting for the bus. Earlier this year, many of those folks were rattled to see a man on an ad in the bus shelter begin coughing when they smoked near it.
Call it a new twist on interactive advertising, where the ad reacts to what you’re doing even when you don’t expect it.
It was a stunt by Swedish pharmacy chain Apotek Hjärtat.
The ad quickly gained viral buzz, gaining attention around the world for the clever idea behind it.
What’s being promoted
Swedish pharmacy chain Apotek Hjärtat
Why this stunt
The chain has a history of promoting healthy living as a medicine of sorts for what ails us.
“Since we as a company want to help people living a longer and healthier life, we are always searching for ideas that can engage around that topic,” says Fredrik Kullgren, head of marketing, Apotek Hjärtat.
The company wanted something that would catch people off guard, and to execute it where a good number of people smoked.
They settled on the Odenplan plaza in central Stockholm. Many people wait for the bus in this area, and a good portion of them smoke.
The campaign ran over the Christmas holidays. It’s a time when many people think about quitting smoking as part of their new year’s resolutions.
How it works
At first glance the ad looked like a typical poster campaign, with the face of a man and the name of the pharmacy. In actuality it was a video ad equipped with a smoke detector that could sense when someone lit up a cigarette nearby.
When smoke was detected, the actor in the video coughed as if he were reacting to the cigarette smoke. The sign then cut to an ad for products to help people quit smoking that are available at the pharmacy.
The words “Nytt ar nya löften” also appeared, which roughly translates to “New year, new promises.”
According to Magnus Jakobsson, creative director at Åkestam Holst, the Stockholm advertising agency behind the campaign, the biggest challenge was getting the actor nail the cough perfectly, so that it looked realistic enough to be a reaction to the cigarette smoke.
Why it works
The ad was placed in a high-traffic area and got people of talking. It took a common OOH staple–eye-level posters–and gave it a new and surprising twist.
How it was received
Numerous advertising blogs and a number of news sites picked up the campaign. The pharmacy’s YouTube video outlining the stunt has received nearly half a million viewers.
While the reaction was overwhelmingly positive, some smokers weren’t thrilled.
“Some think that this billboard terrorizes smokers, but most think it’s brilliant and innovative and smart,” Jakobsson says. “It helped [bring attention to] the subject of the dangers connected to smoking to get massive attention all over the world.”
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