After they finally get around to quitting, many former smokers assume their work is done. To that, the American Lung Association responds: Not so fast.
At the heart of the effort’s new phase is an animated spot. It follows a protagonist as she quits smoking and then chooses to undergo a low-dose CT screen, an important diagnostic exam for some former smokers who fall into a high-risk group. Early diagnosis and new treatment options have been central to increasing lung cancer’s survival rate by 33% over the last decade, the ALA noted.
American Lung Association CMO Julia Fitzgerald credits the look of the campaign to extensive market research which, among other findings, revealed that animated characters can be especially effective at reaching diverse markets. “Saved by the Scan,” she added, has a target audience that is at once very focused and also very large and diverse: Current and former smokers between 50 and 80 years old (the first number was lowered from age 55 by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force in 2021) with at least 20 “pack years” (one pack year equals smoking a pack a day for a year). By one estimate, that group may constitute as much as 23.6% of the U.S. population.
“We tested this concept and, especially with former smokers, when they saw an animated character they could see themselves,” Fitzgerald explained. “It became more of a blank screen so people could project their own story onto the PSA.”
The market research also revealed some misconceptions about the scan – namely, that people confused it with an MRI.
“We heard, ‘I don’t want to go into one of those big machines and get stuck in there,’” Fitzgerald said. “A low-dose CT scan is not like that at all.”
This learning informed the campaign creative. “We made sure that you can see it is an open circle and you go right through. It’s very fast and very easy. It was one of those a-ha moments of research,” Fitzgerald continued.
In addition to simple awareness of scans and misconceptions about the process, “Saved by the Scan” is pushing back against a tendency among many former smokers to view smoking as part of their past and not relevant to their current health.
“Former smokers stopped years ago and don’t even think they are at risk,” Fitzgerald noted. “They may have never told their current doctor that they have a smoking history, so no one thinks about the scan being relevant.”
The campaign is supported by the Ad Council, which connected the American Lung Association with Hill Holliday and Lobo, the Brazilian animation studio that produced the animated spot. Fitzgerald explained the broad reach that the Ad Council offers: “Our media is donated and it is across the board on television, both broadcast and cable. We also get a lot donated outdoors and also a lot of digital, which allows us to do efficient targeting.”
During its first few years, the broader campaign has increased awareness of CT-scans by 70% and the number of people undergoing scans by 22%, the organization added.