Company: Colorado State Tobacco Education & Prevention Partnership (STEPP), a division of the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment
Contact: Jodi Kopke, STEPP Media Director
Location: Denver, Colorado
Industry: Nonprofit/Government
Annual revenue: Confidential
Number of employees: 17

Quick Read:

With the National Conference on Tobacco or Health taking place Oct. 24-26 in Minneapolis, innovative anti-smoking campaigns have been in the spotlight. (The conference aims to help improve the effectiveness of tobacco control programs in the US.) One of the more successful programs has been the "Own Your C" campaign commissioned by the Colorado State Tobacco Education & Prevention Partnership (STEPP). By teaming with a Denver marketing firm, STEPP has leveraged teen empowerment as an effective strategy for connecting with 12-18-year-olds, a demographic often inundated with marketing hype.

The campaign—which includes an interactive Web site, television ads, school and community events, promotional T-shirts. and more—encourages teens to "own their choices" and arms them with the knowledge to make informed decisions about several topics, with a distinct focus on tobacco use. This declaration of independence, combined with a slew of teen-oriented features such as quirky videos, music downloads, and video games, has helped Colorado achieve its goal of reducing the youth tobacco use rate to below 16% some three years ahead of schedule.

The Challenge:

The tobacco industry continues to pump millions into marketing programs, spending a whopping $217 million in 2005 alone, while the effectiveness of anti-tobacco campaigns has waned. State agencies are seeking new ways to compete against these industry giants, using advertising budgets that pale in comparison. A further challenge lies in breaking through the clutter of advertising messages that bombard teenagers daily.

With the goal of reducing the rate of tobacco use among Colorado's youth from more than 18% to 16% by 2010, Colorado's State Tobacco Education & Prevention Partnership (STEPP) sought a novel approach for appealing to teens that would make its message stand out and be heard against the multitude of pitches aimed at this audience.

The Campaign:

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Kimberly Smith is a staff writer for MarketingProfs. Reach her via