Having seen a similar creepy effect in the movie 1984, I really wanted to like this ad more, and I did — until the end.
Created by DDB Toronto for the Canadian Cancer Society, it appears to have everything going for it. I at first assumed it was part of the tough, street-level campaign I blogged about last fall. And I also assumed that the ad was going to try to persuade young adult female smokers to quit before their habit robbed them of their looks.
A sexist approach? Certainly. But one that might actually have a shot with the young.
After all, smoking really does age you prematurely. It's as bad as too much tanning. And it's scientific fact.
According to a 10-year-old Japanese study quoted on BBC, it was found that the compounds in cigarette smoke increases the enzymes responsible for breaking down healthy skin tissue, while reducing collagen production by up to 40%. The result? Early onset of wrinkly, leathery skin.
This process affects men as well as women, but this is where a very ancient double standard kicks in. Humphrey Bogart's signature smoking killed him tragically young, but by male standards he still had "rugged good looks" into his 50s. Men are allowed to age gracefully, it seems, and a little weather on the bark might actually improve one's looks.
Women get a raw deal on this one. Female beauty, evolutionarily tied to a shorter period of fertility, is all about youthfulness. Look — I didn't make up these "rules", but they are a pretty standard observation across human cultures.
Of course, our modern culture has taken the quest for youthfulness to expensive and even dangerous extremes, with surgical interventions and a loosely regulated beauty industry pitching all varieties of snake oils.
Cancer is truly the worst-case scenario for smoking, and it's obvious why the Canadian Cancer Society would choose reduced lifespan as a consequence. But this concept, on its own, could have been a great wake-up call to all those women in their 20s who are still smoking (so to speak). Even if it might be perceived by some as politically incorrect, it speaks to instinct. And instinct is more powerful than making people do math.
Long-term, you're gambling with your life. But the smart money is on the fact that you won't even leave a beautiful corpse.