You Can! Ex Smoker Campaign

There are 4,500 smoking attributable deaths in Greater Manchester (GM) every year, and the office for National Statistics data indicates that smoking prevalence is higher in GM compared to the rest of England.

The Brief

Greater Manchester Health & Social Care Partnership (GMHSCP) commissioned Hitch to create a brand and campaign to encourage smoking cessation across GM as part of their ‘Making Smoking History’ programme.

Campaign aims:

  • Encourage GM residents who smoke to attempt to quit smoking. 

  • Provide motivation to smokers who have recently quit to continue their quit attempt. 

  • Clearly signpost to information and support which will help smokers to quit. 

  • Reinforce messages about the harms of smoking and the benefits of quitting. 

  • Shift social norms in communities where smoking is still prevalent to discourage young people from starting to smoke. 

  • Support a Greater Manchester-wide movement to Make Smoking History across the city region. 

The Approach

In order to produce a hard-hitting yet effective campaign and brand it had to be grounded in insight and research. Hitch had to gather a comprehensive understanding of smoking habits and behaviours in the GM region. 

Three stages of research were undertaken - Desk, Quantitative and Qualitative - which led to the creation of a bespoke segmentation model with 8 segments. Interpreting this insight around attitudes, motivations, barriers and channel preference, Hitch used ACORN Consumer Classification data to create multiple personae. The personae covered different communities and socio-economic groups within GM, including the groups where smoking is most prevalent aiming to cover the majority of types of smokers. This insight allowed Hitch to have an in-depth understanding of what approaches would be best to have the most impact and lead to social behaviour change.

The brand concepts were developed through workshops and hall tests which gave clear creative direction. The brand was designed to reflect the objectives of the campaign, with the brand title ‘You Can!’ used to create motivation and support for smokers who want to quit. 

The campaign voice needed to be engaging and non-patronising and with a GM identity.  Classic health related smoking content was avoided and instead the creative used real people from GM to tell their stories of quit attempts to make the campaign relatable, believable and inspirational. 

The Results

The fully formed creative concept was developed into a targeted six-week mass media campaign to resonate with GM residents. This included:

  • Out-Of-Home advertising on 164 sites plus major bus routes

  • TV adverts that screened 125 times

  • Radio ads on local stations airing over 700 times

  • Press advertising in local papers and news websites

  • Digital advertising including Google ads with 7.6 million impressions and 27,959 click-thrus, and Facebook ads reaching 634,237 residents with videos watched to the end over 120,000 times. 

  • Toolkits including posters and leaflets sent to GPs and other stakeholders.

The campaign was very well-received. Using real people from GM to tell genuine life stories made the campaign relatable, authentic and thought provoking and was a change to the usual health messages. 

  • There was a strong recall – 33% unprompted recall of the campaign.

  • 43% thought it was hard-hitting.

  • Breadth of case studies felt it applied to everyone.

  • Half of smokers (primary target) wanted to quit smoking following the campaign.  

  • 42% did ‘something’ – that’s 1 in 5 smokers in GM. This was:

    • 3% quit attempt

    • 30% cut down

    • 6% sought help/advice

    • 12% moved towards quitting 

  • The campaign significantly pushed the secondary target market along the ‘quit’ spectrum.

Further Phases

You Can is not just a one-off campaign idea, but a clear brand identity that captures and embodies the ambition for smoking reduction over the next three years. This has allowed delivery of multiple campaigns and messages to a range of audiences that all happily sit under the brand, thereby offering consistency and credibility that has strengthened desired behaviours.

  • New year campaign to coincide with a time when people consider quitting.  New case studies were used including those with visible health harms and influencers who had successfully quit smoking.  

  • No Smoking day 2020


“Hitch has made a significant contribution to our ambition of Making Smoking History in Greater Manchester.

Midway through our strategy, the proportion of people who smoke in Greater Manchester is falling twice as fast as across England for a whole. There are now 46,500 fewer smokers in our city region.

We could not be achieving this without our communications and campaigns activities, and the evidence-based strategic planning, people-focused creative approaches, and rigorous analysis and evaluation which Hitch has brought with them.”

- Martin Sainsbury, Communications and Engagement Senior Manager, Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership

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