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Give Gen Z the Facts NOW

Entered in Public Health


Most people would consider cigarette smoking an adult choice. The reality is about 9 out 10 of smokers start before they turn 18. While many think "I'll quit whenever I want," out of every four young smokers, only one will quit before adulthood. Of those three remaining smokers, one will die from tobacco-related causes.

The Florida Department of Health's counter -marketing campaign, THE FACTS NOW, is working to prevent young people in Florida from becoming addicted to tobacco, which remains the leading cause of preventable disease and death. We focus on Florida teens and young adults who are at risk of using tobacco, a small, but diverse demographic that is difficult to reach and even harder to engage.

THE FACTS NOW aims to provide reliable information in a nonjudgmental way that allows teens to own the information. In order to resonate with the Gen Z target audience, a campaign must gain their trust. Teens and young adults trust online media sources and consume them first before newspapers, TV, radio and magazines. But most of all, they trust the opinions of their friends. THE FACTS NOW takes advantage of young people's need for social currency so they can share with peers. The success of the campaign rests not just in how well we speak to the audience, but in how the audience speaks about the campaign and its messages to each other.

Strategy and Execution

Our strategy: Deliver facts as social currency, online and in real life -- with provocative, shareable information that's allows our audience to "discover these facts." We use social media and events to have two-way conversations with the target audience, to speak their language when they want to and need to hear it, and where they're already listening. This seeds our messaging fostering a peer-to-peer approach to information sharing.

Before the campaign launched in 2015, we conducted focus groups with creative executions to determine the best formula to portray a prevention campaign. The results:

Tobacco Fact + What's Trending with Young People = THE FACTS NOW.

It doesn't take a lot of research to know that the campaign's Gen Z audience is constantly connected to all social channels at all times, which is why THE FACTS NOW has a sound paid social media strategy that is always active throughout all the popular social networks.

We work to intercept their conversations and give them THE FACTS NOW about tobacco. We tap into trending topics and plan our content around what's going on in our audiences day-to-day. We deploy real-time marketing by connecting tobacco-related facts to things that are trending and by creating a sense of immediacy and urgency – what the Golin team calls the NOW factor (our formula.)

Twitter specifically allows us to reactively engage with the target audience outside of the campaign's paid social media. We monitor keywords tied to tobacco use and the cigarette emoji in the audience's tweets, and interject to give them the facts. More than 80 percent of tweets from THE FACTS NOW were in reply to the target audience. Meaningful conversations and thoroughly explaining facts gives the campaign credibility and reliability.

Events are essential to giving the campaign a personal connection with the audience. By carefully choosing niche events where teens and young adults feel most in their element, the campaign is able to create a meaningful and memorable brand experience. Quite simply, we go to teen events with people that look and sound like them (brand ambassadors) delivering information in a way that discoverable.

THE FACTS NOW partnered with an emerging youth artist from Florida to create coloring-book styled murals that served as a Creation Station at events. Tobacco facts and youth culture illustrations were embedded into the mural. It's extremely popular because festival-goers love leaving their mark to contribute to the community art piece. While the audience colored in the mural, they would read and discuss the facts among themselves and with the campaign's street team. Custom gear that resonated with our target audience including t-shirts, die-cut stickers, sunglasses, custom skate decks and PopSockets, most which contain campaign messaging, reinforces the message because they take it home.

Between events and social media, proactive facts are distributed as social currency. Word of mouth is the most trusted form of communication, especially for teens. THE FACTS NOW must reflect teen culture and needs to be discoverable in spaces that fit naturally in the teen ecosystem.


Despite our minimal budget, we achieved millions of social media engagements, thousands of meaningful conversations at events with the audience and countless facts were spread by our audience.

Are they receiving the information? Yes! Awareness levels were extremely high.

Exhaustive research conducted by an independent evaluator, RTI International measured youth recall of THE FACTS NOW against other national tobacco media campaigns airing in Florida.

In 2017, THE FACTS NOW awareness levels from August to November 2017 were at 73.3%. Compared to the national tobacco media campaigns, truth awareness levels were at 57% and The Real Cost was at 74.7%, campaigns with much larger budgets.

Are they sharing the information? Yes! Millions of facts were shared as social currency.

During our last fiscal year, July 2017 - June 2018 the campaign garnered:

Is that awareness & sharing achieving real change? Yes, lowest rates in FL ever.

While many factors contribute to lowering the smoking rate, spreading awareness about the dangers of tobacco is essential. In 2017, 4.2% of Florida high school students reported currently using cigarettes, which is well below the national rate (7.6%) reported, and lowest in state history.


Entrant Company / Organization Name

Golin, Florida Department of Health


Entry Credits