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Informing Contexts – Decoding the Advert – 2

“The attempt to force human beings to despise themselves is what I call hell.”

― André Malraux

Figure 1: NHS 

The fish hook piercing through the side of the mouth represents the girl being hooked on smoking.  She is not in control of her addiction.  She has a sad and pained expression that indicates that this is not a situation she wishes to be in.  The inclusion of the text and logos adds a layer of trust that the poster has been produced by people who want to help.  The advert creates a strong emotional response to the image.  The effect is immediate.  When I look at this image I feel anger that the girl has allowed herself to become addicted to smoking.  I feel disgust about the situation too.  Then, I start to feel sorry for her.  Why has no-one helped her before; how did she become so addicted?  The advert is strong and powerful; not easily forgotten by the viewer, whether they smoke or not.

But is this big brother just dictating what we can and can’t do?  This image can be viewed as distressing, particularly to children, due to its graphic nature.  For smokers (the target viewer), the image could be seen as offensive, with the indication that they are not capable of giving up smoking on their own and that they have to rely on others to help them.  The image is somewhat unrealistic.  The piercing of the cheek may not be translated as being hooked on smoking by some viewers.  The advert appears to target a narrow demographic on first glance – young female smokers.  There were images in the series which opened up the demographic a little, but would not have targeted all those it needed to.  People need to relate to the images they see before them in order for the message to really hit home.


This image has the intention of confronting smokers about their habit.  The NHS has used shocking and graphic images to get that message across and to try and make the advert memorable.  I understand the message the advert is giving but think that the choice of imagery is too graphic for public consumption, especially when part of the message is to try to stop children smoking.  The image is intended to make smokers realise the control that smoking has on their lives.

But, does making people feel bad about themselves and despising their habits, really help them to quit smoking?


Malraux, A. from Quotes About Advertising (263 quotes) . 2017. Quotes About Advertising (263 quotes) . [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/advertising?page=3. [Accessed 13 March 2017].

Figure 1: NHS From By Ian Johnston . 2017. Government advertisements run 10,000 times a day – Telegraph. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/5066238/Government-advertisements-run-10000-times-a-day.html. [Accessed 13 March 2017].


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