Squeezing new life out of an old Sponge: how to modernise an anti-smoking media campaign to capture a new market

Aust N Z J Public Health. 2011 Feb;35(1):75-80. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-6405.2010.00654.x. Epub 2011 Jan 13.


Objectives: The iconic Sponge anti-smoking television advertisement was first made in Sydney, Australia, in 1979. In 2007, it was re-made for a new generation of smokers. This paper examines the impact of the re-made Sponge advertisement.

Methods: Qualitative evaluation of the original Sponge ad by younger and older smokers (n=51) was followed by an online pre-test survey of the modernised version (n=301). A continuous tracking telephone survey of smokers and recent quitters (quit in past 12 months) over 18 years monitored performance of the modernised version while on air in late 2007 (total n=453; seen ad n=380).

Results: Qualitative research found that the concept of the original Sponge ad may motivate younger smokers--who had not previously seen the ad--to quit. Online pre-testing demonstrated that the modernised version provided new information to 54% of 18-24 year olds (compared to 31% of older smokers). Tracking survey results indicated that believability of the modernised version was highest among 18-24 year olds (92%), that the ad was 'attention-grabbing' (86%), and that it was effective at influencing quitting intentions. Effects were amplified by the generation of pressure from family and friends.

Implications: The re-made Sponge advertisement had a positive impact on smokers, and was particularly effective among the new market of smokers aged less than 40 years. Adapting successful mass media campaign material can be an effective and economical strategy to influence smokers.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Advertising / methods*
  • Advertising / trends
  • Australia
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Health Promotion / trends
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Male
  • Mass Media*
  • Middle Aged
  • Qualitative Research
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Smoking Cessation / methods*
  • Smoking Prevention*
  • Telephone
  • Young Adult