In a year when COVID-19 has dominated the headlines, it has been a challenge for other health stories and educational efforts to attract interest. To that end, FCB New York tapped a handful of celebrities — actor Terry Crews, singer/actor Sky Katz and skateboard legend Tony Hawk — to reach the target teen audience of its “Little Lungs” smoking prevention push. The series’ latest iteration, which debuted last week, includes three new videos. 

The “Little Lungs” spots center on a character of the same name whose growth has been stunted by cigarette smoking. Set on ski slopes, at pool parties and elsewhere, the recurring theme of the Claymation videos is how Little Lungs’ stunted growth affects him in numerous unexpected ways. The 30-second clips are part of “The Real Cost,” a Center for Tobacco Products campaign.

“Everything in ‘The Real Cost’ needs to bring the facts and the negative consequences of smoking into a more urgent, real-time focus,” explained FCB New York EVP, group management director Suzanne Santiago. “There is a cost to every cigarette – your third, your fourth, even when you are 15 years old. What Little Lungs does is fit under that and say that if you smoke as a teen you are stunting your lungs now and they will never grow to normal size.”

After the success of the first Little Lungs videos in 2017 (there were five 30-second spots in the first installment), FCB chose to draft celebrity talent for the current iteration.

“The first filter for choosing celebrities was that they needed to be people who relied on their lungs to a certain extent—whether it’s singing, dancing, athleticism,” said FCB New York EVP, executive creative director Gary Resch. “Sky Katz had a song where she is schooling these boys on a basketball court. With Tony Hawk, his lungs are important to him as a skateboarder. Terry Crews is known for his physical strength and everything he does has a great physicality to it.”

Santiago noted a second challenge unique to this particular execution of the campaign. “We had to find people with distinctive voices and physical characteristics,” she explained. “We had many meetings going through what people look like and sound like to make sure there was something very unique about them, so that we could make them into a lung and it would still be obvious who they were.”

Santiago said the chosen celebrities had to have a hard stance against tobacco use, noting that “when they believe in it, they can speak about it more eloquently and meaningfully.” Resch agreed, adding, “The big difference between the first round and this round is that we have a conduit straight to the audience through the celebrities. They will be promoting it on their channels, so we have a built-in audience this time.”