Rankin directs NHS anti-smoking viral ad

Viral ad by photographer Rankin showing a smoker being attacked by an invisible assailant launches online

An NHS trust in Birmingham has recruited the photographer Rankin to help with a new hard-hitting viral anti-smoking ad, part of a multimedia campaign that launches today.

Rankin has co-directed the ad with Chris Cottam, which shows a smoker suffering an assault from an invisible assailant as he walks down the street.

"Smoke and your body takes a beating," a voiceover says at the end of the minute-long film. "Fight back. Quit now."

The video will be shown on a mobile exhibition unit that will tour parts of Birmingham and also offer tests of patients' lung ages and carbon monoxide levels.

Rankin and Cottam's ad is also being distributed virally on YouTube and other websites as part of the marketing campaign surrounding the initiative.

The theme is also taken up on posters and leaflets that feature three different men who have been beaten up, with the slogans "Smoking: GBH to your insides", "When you smoke, it's your insides that get beaten up" and "Cigarettes attack you. But in ways you don't always see".

This campaign is being run by the Dr Foster agency, which was able to secure Rankin's services free of charge.

NHS Birmingham East and North is hoping the campaign will get through to "hard to reach" smokers – specifically white males aged 35-55 in the C2DE socio-economic category – living in the most deprived parts of the area.

"People have been seeing stop smoking ads all their lives and everyone knows it's bad for them. It's old news," said Joanna Mawtus, creative director at Dr Foster.

"Unless we give people a new perspective on it, they're not going to take any notice. We think this idea does that.

"In testing, people thought the images they were being confronted with were hard hitting, but also acknowledged that it's what they need to see in order to change. They're quite shocking, but then so is the damage smoking causes."

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