36386 Using Digital Advertising to Reach Tobacco Users in the U.S. Military

Kaitlin Treber, BA, ICF International, Rockville, MD and Paul Fitzpatrick, MA, Communications Division, Defense Health Agency, Falls Church, VA

Background:  Tobacco use is high in the military for a number of reasons, including a history of tobacco tolerance and promotion as well as discounted tobacco pricing on military installations.  As a result of its complete incompatibility with the goals and standards of the military and its effects on force readiness, tobacco use remains a concern.  

Program background:  Quit Tobacco – UCanQuit2.org is the tobacco cessation and counter-marketing program for the U.S. military and sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense.  Launched in 2007, the program’s mission is to help U.S. service members quit using tobacco with a target audience of the   highest percentage of tobacco users- junior enlisted, 18-24 year old, males.  The program can share best practices in innovative technologies that we have used to reach this audience. In 2014, Quit Tobacco launched a three-month digital media advertising campaign, Tough Enough, to raise awareness of the program and to drive traffic to resources on UCanQuit2.org.

Evaluation Methods and Results:  The Tough Enoughcampaign utilized a multi-platform digital approach that showed significant results.  The campaign garnered 49,955,559 impressions which far surpassed our industry experts’ projection of 19,250,001 impressions. We saw significant increases in some of our resources as well as our social media pages.

  • Digital Web Banner Ads – Using behavior and interest targeting, received 7,460,805 impressions and almost 50,000 clicks to our website
  • Mobile Ads –Resulted in 23,601,746 impressions and more than 150,000 clicks to our website.
  • Google Search and Display Ads – Using geotargeting to military installations resulted in close to 1,000,000 impressions
  • Web Content Delivery – Placed our website content on popular sites for news and information. Resulted in  3,147,519 impressions and more than 9,000 clicks
  • Streaming Radio – Performed better than expected, though costly and hard to track actual impact.
  • Facebook – Received more than 15,000 page likes but more importantly we saw a drastic increase in comments and shares on our posts
  • Twitter – Promoted ads resulted in 15% increase in followers
The positive impact that digital advertising had on our program resources was great to see.
  • Mobile-compatible Website, UCanQuit2.org (During the three-month campaign, our number of users increased 923% and our page views increased by 301%)
  • SmokefreeMIL is an SMS text message support program designed for service members trying to quit tobacco. (1,097 users in 2014)
  • Live Chat provides 24/7 personalized support from a trained tobacco cessation coach. (2,675 anonymous chats in 2014)

Conclusions:  Decreasing the tobacco use rate in military population is challenging.  Our goal with the Tough Enoughcampaign was to be out there for our target audience to see.  We would highly recommend advertising digitally, the expense is lower and with targeted advertising you can get a better return-on-investment by only appearing on pages that your audience is likely to frequent.

Implications for research and/or practice:  Quit Tobacco is engaging in another digital media campaign currently and will be interested to see the way creative, messaging, timing and placement play in convincing tobacco users to quit or to view the program’s resources.