Case Study
Branding, Creative, Strategy

FDA Rural Youth Smokeless Tobacco Prevention


Food and Drug Administration Center for Tobacco Products

FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products launched the first nationwide public education campaign to prevent the use of smokeless tobacco (i.e., dip, chew, snus). As part of the broader FDA anti-tobacco brand “The Real Cost”, this campaign targeted rural, white teenage boys who are the most vulnerable to trying smokeless tobacco for the first time. The goals of the campaign were to educate the target audience by increasing awareness and understanding of the dangers of smokeless tobacco use and to create cognitive dissonance so they will rethink their relationship with smokeless tobacco and decrease their intent to use it.


Due to the overall cultural acceptance of smokeless tobacco in rural communities, behavior change communications required a delicate approach that educates the potential dangers of smokeless tobacco without attacking the cultural norm that is woven into the rural lifestyle. Little to no research was available on smokeless tobacco usage in rural youth.

Project Approach and Results

With the lack of research on rural youth and smokeless tobacco use and a very geographically diverse target, the project required a robust research effort by research partner Fors Marsh Group. The target was located in counties dispersed outside of major metropolitan areas. Research findings based on a behavioral algorithm to identify the appropriate markets helped develop a unique media approach.

In collaboration with FDA CTP and Sensis, Design for People led the digital effort in creating a comprehensive digital content program that provides new facts and authentic, straightforward content that disrupts the comfort level of the target audience and brings immediacy to the real cost of smokeless tobacco use. The campaign embraces the always-on digital environment and creates a continuous flow of engaging content of all kinds — including videos and bite-size visuals, leveraging his passion points to bring the message to where he already spends his time and reinforcing it within his preferred platforms.

The campaign runs across a variety of media channels commonly visited by our target audience both online and offline from TV commercials, radio, paid digital media banners on sites such as EA Sports, Playwire, Bleacher Report, and Spotify to gaming platforms including Xbox and Playstation to printed paid media displayed in convenience stores and bowling alleys to Minor League Baseball, local sponsorships and events to country music artists via a branded SoundCloud playlist to social media and The Real Cost website which uses geo-targeting technology to reach the target market.


The campaign has been very successful since it’s launch. Digital banners performed higher than site benchmarks across all channels. Analysis of the data reported based on the initial KPIs for the website (visitors, traffic source, new visits, time on site) showed extraordinary results that were higher than government benchmarks.

For the duration of the campaign, an average of 75.4% of visitors resulted from new sessions. Conversion rates based from time on site and page visits showed an increase of 8.2% and 3.3% respectively. The rural target market spent more time and visited more pages on the website and had a high returning visitor rate of over 24%.

Google’s Brand Lift Study for the campaign measured the direct impact YouTube ads have on perceptions and behaviors throughout the consumer journey. Through the comparison of two of the videos and surveys provided to the target market, which looked at intent to smoke or use smokeless tobacco, the campaign educated the audience about the ill effects of tobacco and intent not to use went up 12.1%. Also, the study suggested that it only took 1 impression to communicate the negative effects of tobacco.

After the audience viewed the videos, keyword search through brand identity went up +290% and product keyword search went up +58%. Behavior targeting led to the highest life in all search activity with an uptick of +453.4%.

The Real Cost: Smokeless Doesn't Mean Harmless - Soundcloud Branded Playlist
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