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The spotlight on Stoptober 2016

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The admirable annual campaign is again speaking to smokers in an effort to convince them to quit, once and for all. Through using TV, PR, celebrity endorsement, and, this year, motivational Facebook Messenger chat bots, Stoptober is hoping to expand its reach and tap into a platform where smokers are ‘absolutely dominant’ according to PHE’s marketing director Sheila Mitchell.

Here JJers give their view on the campaign and its new social AI approach.

JJ’s view


The fact that social marketing has taken a key role in this campaign shows once again how influential it can be.
Barney Sayce

Michael’s view –

Here’s a confession. Occasionally (ahem), I’ve been known to smoke. Will I be quitting for Stoptober? Yes, I will. Why? Because it’s a great reason to do so.
I like Stoptober’s focus on positive messaging. Having things like a Facebook Messenger bot reminding you why you’re quitting is an interesting touch. And there’s the usual gang of celebs lending their support. It’s all good.

From a personal point of view, I’m not sure I’ll be particularly influenced by bots, or Chris Kamara barking at me. I’ll be more driven by my own willpower. But it’s clear that there’s a good range of interesting content video, social, email and more, which fellow quitters will no doubt find useful.

Tom’s view –

2016’s Stoptober campaign has all the usual ingredients: PR, social, TV, eCRM, and celebrity endorsements – but a focused effort on Facebook is what caught my attention. Rather than spreading its efforts equally across all social platforms, it was interesting to see Public Health England concentrate on a specific platform, having determined that smokers were ‘absolutely dominant’ in the space. Based on this, PHE has been able to focus on Facebook with confidence and do something genuinely interesting in the form of its Facebook Messenger bots.

Gaetan’s view –

As a bit of a health and fitness addict, any campaign aimed at getting people healthy and active is a hit with me. I’m a non-smoker and therefore find it hard to relate to the target audience, but I can imagine trying to kick the habit is always going to be easier with the support of others. As smoking has dropped to its lowest rate yet (16.9%), it’s becoming rarer to know of friends and family who smoke, which is great news. Social media is therefore a perfect way of connecting those who still have the habit. The Messenger bots used by Facebook are certainly an innovative tool, and who knows, perhaps in a few years’ time there will be so few smokers left that bots will be a considerable source of support for people trying to give up.

Barney’s view –

The fact that social marketing has taken a key role in this campaign shows once again how influential it can be. The community aspect of Facebook has been hugely effective for charities in the past and works brilliantly here to give people the support that they need to quit smoking.

Sue’s view –

Stoptober could be even more effective this year. This campaign highlights how insights can be creatively positioned to drive a national campaign to stop smoking. What a compelling message – stop for 28 days and you’re five times more likely to be successful. Apply a hook for the timing on a calendar moment and then build the campaign year on year with budget and greater communication tactics. This year eCRM tactics will help the success of each individual even further, with a very personalised daily journey for each engaged participant. Engagement at this individual level will provide more enhanced data insights and will be a valuable resource for planning 2017. But hopefully based on 2016’s success there will be less of an audience next year.

Beat it with a Bot

So PHE is pinning its hopes on a new platform this year in the relatively unchartered waters of Messenger bots. While the likes of Pizza Hut and even the White House have experimented with chatbots, few have shown a real need for or genuine application of the technology. That might be because they aren’t considering human behaviour in a bot-inhabited world.

As bots, AI and physical robots progress, it’s becoming increasingly clear than in order to get around initial human resistance you have to almost dumb down the intelligence of artificial intelligence. The Stoptober campaign is an example of bot use with a genuine purpose and one that we would be interested to see prevail, but its success will lie in its application. Try and be too real, or too human in your messaging and you’re likely to come across as creepy or, worse still, pushy; but give the audience something transparent and simple and you’re far more likely to make an impact.

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