“Smoke Free in 2003” is a pan-European public health awareness campaign designed to highlight the dangers of smoking, encourage smokers to give up cigarettes in the New Year and to go and see their doctor for advice and effective treatment to help them quit. It is a comprehensive, innovative and measurable campaign that uses international press events, a multinational survey and celebrity spokesperson to promote smoking cessation and the importance of physician intervention/involvement.
Giving up cigarettes is traditionally believed to be top on many smokers’ list of New Year’s resolutions. GSK appointed CPR the challenge of creating a strategically focused PR campaign that would encourage smokers to give up their cigarettes on New Year’s Day.
CPR was given four months to create, implement and evaluate the results of the “Smoke Free in 2003” campaign. The short time frame meant the campaign needed to be simple, achievable and easily implemented by the GSK European and International markets.
 CPR’s strategic approach was to create a smoking cessation public awareness campaign, harnessing the support of a popular health conscious celebrity to encourage smokers to give up on New Year’s Day.
Gaining the support of a health professional, together with the right level of motivational support and proven stop smoking medication, has been shown to be a winning combination in helping smokers to quit their cigarettes. The ‘Smoke Free in 2003’ campaign focused on communicating to the consumer the key message: visit your doctor who can help you to quit and tell you more about effective smoking cessation treatment options currently available and right for you.
CPR created a “Smoke Free in 2003” survey to determine how many smokers try to quit as part of their New Year’s resolution. The survey aimed to gain an insight into why, despite good intentions, people fail to quit; what barriers exist to quit attempts; why the New Year quit date is often postponed and why people fail to remain cigarette-free in the long term.
The survey was conducted in six European countries; UK, Germany, Spain, Belgium, France and The Netherlands, as well as Australia, and involved over 2,100 participants all of whom were smokers or former smokers. Interviews were carried out via the Internet in all countries except Australia where the research was undertaken via telephone.
To communicate to target audiences that it is possible to give up smoking for the long term, the survey investigated successful quitters; how they quit; how difficult they found it; how their quality of life has improved since quitting and what motivates them to remain smoke free. The survey results generated interesting and quirky data that provided news hooks on which to base the press materials and capture the media’s interest in the campaign.
To build awareness for the “Smoke Free in 2003” brand and to build consumer association, branded press materials were created including letterhead, a folder, sticker and media invitation. CD ROMs containing the designs for the branded press materials were distributed to the markets to enable them to produce translated versions suitable for use with their local media.
CPR employed the reputation of celebrity Gary Lineker - former England International Football (soccer) star - to help drive public awareness for the campaign as well as to create a fresh media news angle to sell the story to journalists. During a football career that spanned from 1976-1994, Lineker was one of the most famous and admired football players in the world. Since retiring from the game, Lineker has been a sports related presenter for English BBC TV and radio, and has reported on high profile sports events such as the Atlanta Olympic Games.
The GSK European and International markets were encouraged to organise local “Smoke Free in 2003” press briefings to launch the results of the survey either involving Lineker or securing the support of a local celebrity. CPR developed a ‘How-to-Guide’ to assist markets in organizing celebrity press briefings.
A video news release (VNR) was filmed to provide markets with an additional tool to generate in-country media coverage. The VNR features Lineker offering his support for the campaign and announcing the overall consumer survey results, as well as results for each individual market. Also featured in the footage is a patient who achieved success in quitting through physician intervention, and a key opinion leader offering a scientific/medical view.
Four GSK markets held press briefings, including Belgium, Ireland, Spain and The UK, three of which used Lineker to launch the data results of the consumer survey.
The “Smoke Free in 2003” media events generated extensive media coverage in markets across Europe. Furthermore, in spite of this being a predominantly European campaign, the story was covered by several US publications. US media hits include American Morning with Paula Zahn, Reuters and CNN.com, in addition to extensive local market media coverage.
Most coverage mentions the campaign, the survey results and contains a supportive quote from Lineker and a key opinion leader. Many articles feature campaign key messages about trying to quit this New Year, and visiting a doctor for help and advice on the best way to overcome tobacco addiction. 
The high profile and reputation of the types of media that have covered the story confirms the strength of the news. Almost immediately coverage was collected from high profile Belgian, UK, Spanish and International publications (e.g. Le Soir, Associated Press, CNN, Reuters Health, Europe Intelligence Wire, Daily Telegraph, OK! Magazine, ABC).
Interestingly, one reader of a UK daily newspaper called The Metro was inspired to write to the publication’s letters page querying the choice of celebrity to back the campaign. This is evidence to show that the campaign really is reaching target audiences.