Robert J. Gould
Carrie Schum is a senior vice president, Strategic Planning and Research at
Porter Novelli D. Rob Gould is the Managing Director of Porter Novelli's
Washington, DC office. They were both core members of the team that launched
The Florida "truth" anti-tobacco campaign was the first counter-marketing
campaign funded with tobacco industry settlement money. Its strategy of
undermining conventional attitudes about tobacco use, and showing how the
tobacco industry purposely targeted teens, has been widely used by other
tobacco prevention programs. This case study describes the strategic decisions
that gave rise to the "truth" campaign, and speculates about why "truth" was so
effective, with a particular focus on peer-to-peer communication.
The Florida "truth" campaign is often held up as a model of effective
marketing. As the first-ever tobacco counter-marketing program executed with
tobacco company money (as a result of the state's settlement with the tobacco
), the program received extensive media coverage and
interest from the public health sector. And, most of all, it worked -- tobacco use
among Florida middle and high school students declined markedly and rapidly.
(Editor's note: Florida's settlement with the tobacco industry preceded the
November 1998 multi-state settlement that led to the creation of the American
Legacy Foundation, whose legal fight with Lorillard Tobacco over anti-tobacco
advertising is profiled in this volume of the journal.)
What isn't as well known is how the program came together, the strategic and
operational decisions that made it work so well on the ground. Moreover, with the
benefit of hindsight, we now have words to describe what we believe occurred in
Florida from 1998 to 2000 - terms, like viral campaign and peer networking, that
we see commonly today but that were unknown a decade ago.
In many ways,
the Florida "truth" campaign was the first horizontal influence campaign, where
the horizontal - peer-to-peer - element was just as important as the vertical, top-
down professional communications activities.
Porter Novelli served as the public relations agency for the Florida "truth"
campaign, executing local and national media relations programs, as well as
overseeing youth activism activities and assisting the local grassroots activities of
SWAT (Students Working Against Tobacco) chapters.
Tobacco Use Among Florida Youth
It is estimated that 90% of adult smokers began smoking before the age of 18,