PARSIPPANY, N.J., Oct. 24, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Most people think they know the risks that come with smoking. But a team of creative directors from the healthcare communications agency McCann Torre Lazur (MTL), part of McCann Health, is making it their mission to publicize a devastating side effect of smoking that has so far flown under the radar: blindness.
To do this, the MTL team conducted a powerful social experiment that simulated the experience of having age-related macular degeneration or AMD. With footage in hand, they took their campaign online. Naming it Smoking Blind, they built out a website (smokingblind.org) and a social media presence, including videos of the cigarette machine interactions and shareable social tiles drawing attention to the connection between smoking and blindness. So far the results have been promising: nearly 15,000 impressions on Facebook, almost 4,000 more on Twitter, and more than a thousand page views of the website.
"While researching a pitch for a client, we found out that smoking is the second highest risk factor for age-related macular degeneration," says Marcia Goddard, McCann Torre Lazur, Chief Creative Officer. "We also discovered that ophthalmologists don't usually discuss smoking as a risk factor for blindness with their patients. With our background in health care, we were surprised. So we decided to do something about it."
With this in mind, the team at MTL tracked down an old-fashioned cigarette machine and filled it up with packs of cigarettes – except the packs of cigarettes weren't really packs of cigarettes, they were boxes covered in Braille and had information about the connection between smoking and blindness, plus a pair of glasses that simulate the experience of having AMD. Then they set up their cigarette machine at a restaurant and watched.
Those reactions turned out to be powerfully emotional. People went from buying cigarettes one moment to crying or wondering how losing their sight would impact their lives the next. And none of them had known that smoking was such a significant risk factor for blindness.
"We took it into a restaurant and bar on a few occasions, and we staged it up," says Katharine Imbro, a creative director at McCann Torre Lazur. "Then we just watched and filmed what happened, and had conversations with people to see their reaction."
Now the team is seeking new ways to broadcast their message to a wider audience. They are filling out the Smoking Blind website with articles and videos explaining the links between smoking and AMD, and looking for other local businesses that might want to host their cigarette machine. They are also seeking partners – organizations with wide reach and an interest in nonsmoking, vision, or health in general. And all this is happening off the clock; the cause has become a personal one for this team of creatives.
"We want to inspire people to quit," Goddard says. "The next time they smoke a cigarette, we want them to stop and think, 'I could lose my vision unless…' Because blindness is a tangible thing. No one who hasn't had it really knows what lung cancer might feel like. But anyone can imagine what losing your sight could be like. So we think it's a highly tangible way to motivate smokers to quit, and we're going to do whatever it takes to make sure they know about it."
McCann Torre Lazur is the flagship agency of McCann Health North America. McCann Health (www.mccannhealth.com), the winner of the coveted Network of the Year Award at 2016 Cannes Lions Health Festival and one of the world's most awarded global healthcare marketing networks, is committed to generating life-changing ideas that improve the health of humanity. McCann Health is part of McCann Worldgroup and The Interpublic Group of Companies.
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SOURCE McCann Health