NEWS: Govt drops HEA for anti-smoking campaign

The Government has sprung a surprise by awarding a pounds 3 million campaign against teenage smoking to a communications company rather than an agency.

The Government has sprung a surprise by awarding a pounds 3 million

campaign against teenage smoking to a communications company rather than

an agency.

Brewer Blackler, a through-the-line consultancy, has defeated the Health

Education Authority in a two-way shoot-out for the Department of Health

business. The decision is a setback for Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, which

handled the campaign for the HEA, although it will continue to run the

authority’s pounds 3 million drive on adult smoking until a review,

which is expected next year.

The shake-up marks a watershed in government advertising. It is the

first account the HEA has lost since being forced to compete for

government business with the private sector following a review of its

work last year.

The Health Department’s decision to opt for a private sector company is

also a blow for the Central Office of Information, the government

advertising body, which pitched for the teenage smoking campaign but was

eliminated (Campaign, 16 February).

Brewer Blackler, whose other clients include Quaker, Coca-Cola and Eden

Vale, will not sub-contract the advertising on teenage smoking to an

agency and will use its in-house expertise.

David Blackler, the company’s managing director, said advertising would

form ‘a substantial part’ of the campaign, but it is unclear how much of

the annual pounds 1 million budget for three years will go on ads.

Blackler said the work would also include activity in schools, a

roadshow and a telephone helpline.

In its winning pitch, Brewer Blackler rejected a negative approach using

shock tactics to turn teenagers against smoking. The company said the

offensive should ‘establish a lifestyle that non-smokers will buy into’,

which offered rewards and incentives to compete with the free gifts and

competitions in other promotions. Direct mail will play a part in the


The campaign, due to break in May, will involve private sector

sponsorship, with material displayed in record stores and clothes shops.

High-profile figures such as Richard Branson may endorse the no-smoking


Government sources said the choice of Brewer Blackler was ‘no

reflection’ on the HEA or its support for a ban on tobacco advertising,

which ministers oppose.

Charles Gallichan, the HEA’s head of advertising, commented: ‘Obviously,

it is a blow but nobody should underestimate our determination and

ability to succeed.’


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