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Special Project

Special Project NEW!
From the 2nd Annual Shorty Social Good Awards

The New Wave: Fresh Empire

Entered in Contest or Promotion

About this entry

Fresh Empire, the first-ever multicultural youth tobacco prevention campaign, was designed to prevent and reduce tobacco use among at-risk African American, Hispanic, and Asian American/Pacific Islander youth ages 12-17 who identify with the Hip Hop peer crowd. Peer crowd segmentation is an innovative approach focusing on youth who share the same core ideals, have similar life experiences and common interests, and may be at a higher risk for tobacco use. Research shows approximately 5 million multicultural youth are open to smoking or already experimenting with cigarettes, and it is estimated that youth who identify with the Hip Hop peer crowd are 50% more likely to use tobacco than mainstream youth. To address the demonstrated need among this population, the campaign's primary objective is to prevent tobacco use among the Hip Hop peer crowd by influencing changes in belief, attitudes, and intentions toward tobacco use.

While Hip Hop culture encourages positive values such as working hard to be successful and overcoming personal struggles, it can also promote imagery and messages portraying tobacco use as a desirable behavior. To change this perception around tobacco use, Fresh Empire uses a variety of integrated marketing tactics including traditional media, influencers, digital experiences, social, digital media, and experiential efforts. While all of the above mediums are used to help Fresh Empire change Hip Hop attitudes and beliefs among teens, the campaign prioritizes the strategies that focus on direct interactions such as through social media platforms, digital experiences and contests, influencers, and events.

Why does this entry deserve to win?

The Fresh Empire campaign targets youth who have historically been underserved and are at a higher risk for tobacco use. Understanding this specific community and being perceived as an organic part of the Hip Hop peer crowd is essential to the success of Fresh Empire. Tobacco use is almost always initiated during adolescence—close to 90 percent of established adult smokers smoke their first cigarette by age 18—making early intervention and targeted teen tobacco prevention efforts critical. Fresh Empire creative, like The New Wave, combines relevant and relatable facts about tobacco usage with culturally authentic insights, and is reinforced by influencers' personal stories and/or their cross promotion on social media to create messaging with the most impact.

"The New Wave" competition is a digital experience where users are given the opportunity to support their favorite of six tobacco-free rap artists in a 15-week bracket style competition. This competition engages the target audience by using these influencers to challenge the perception that tobacco use is an inherent part of Hip Hop culture.To create "The New Wave", Fresh Empire teamed up with six up-and-coming tobacco-free Hip Hop artists and developed a digital experience where the artists battled in three rounds of competition, each with a different challenge. Users voted each round to advance their favorite artist to the finals, giving them a chance to see the winning artist perform in person at the "Fresh Empire Event Series". Along the user journey, youth received culturally authentic messaging from these influencers on why living a tobacco-free life is paramount to their success. This digital experience capitalizes on the campaign's key insights about the target audience, such as the importance of achieving success, staying in control of your life, and never letting tobacco hold you back from reaching your dreams.


The New Wave is Fresh Empire's most successful digital experiential effort to date with over 300K contest votes, 18.4K contest shares, and over 390K website visitors in just eight weeks.As a direct result of The New Wave, the Fresh Empire campaign saw a 500% increase in brand Twitter mentions. This competition piqued the interest of iconic Hip Hop artists such as Eminem, BOB, Durtty Boyz, Da Brat, Jermaine Dupri, and Bow Wow, who organically posted content in support of the campaign and the artists. Their posts supporting The New Wave garnered hundreds of thousands of likes and comments, further placing the spotlight on Hip Hop artists willing to publicly support a tobacco-free campaign. The New Wave also created an organic media buzz within the Hip Hop community as it was featured in a variety of respected Hip Hop publications such as Hot New Hip Hop, Rap Direct, and the Rap Basement. The New Wave's success reinforces the notion that seamless integration of tobacco messaging in a culturally relevant way through authentic messengers helps influence changes in belief, attitudes, and intentions around tobacco use among the Hip Hop peer crowd.


Entrant Company / Organization Name

Rescue | The Behavior Change Agency, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – Center for Tobacco Products (CTP)


Entry Credits