Author: Kyle Curtis, Creative Director-Salt Lake City

Pets Have Lungs Too

Recently, R&R Partners created a TV spot for that tested among the top-10 most effective anti-smoking messages nationally.  The emotionally jarring spot was extremely effective at inspiring quit attempts, especially among parents with kids. Based on the success of that campaign, we’re now taking the message one step further.

Many smokers in Utah are young males without children who don’t watch much TV. R&R needed a message that would encourage quit attempts among this audience, too. Research showed that while many young males don’t have families, they do have pets that they consider family, and that secondhand smoke harms pets as much as it does babies and toddlers.

So, the employees at R&R Salt Lake City brought in their various dogs, cats, parrots and rabbits and filmed them right there in the office. Visual effects were then added to show the animals puffing on cigarettes, pipes and cigars. The message was simple, “If you smoke, your pets smoke.” The videos ran on social media and pre-roll.

The results have been impressive. During January/February, the first months that the smoking animal videos ran, visits to (the website featuring tobacco cessation information) tripled from the same time last year, while time spent on the site doubled. Quit service enrollments, both telephone and online, also increased 30 percent.

The videos will be featured at a national tobacco prevention conference.



Bad Decisions and Communication Arts

R&R Partners’ “Behind Bad Decisions” billboard for Parents Empowered has been selected to appear in the prestigious Communication Arts (CA) 2016 Advertising Annual.

CA’s Award of Excellence is one of the most coveted in the advertising industry, and of the thousands of international entries, only 138 ads were selected for publication this year.

The Parents Empowered billboard was the result of research showing that many parents viewed underage drinking as a teen boy problem. Based on that perception, these parents often didn’t talk to their daughters about not drinking underage. (In reality, teen males and females report roughly the same rates of alcohol use.)

Communication Arts

Award-Winning Communication Arts Billboard

The research, however, also showed that when it came to their daughters, parents were extremely concerned about unplanned pregnancies. By connecting teen pregnancy to underage drinking, the billboard helped elevate the issue of girls’ drinking underage.

The “Behind Bad Decisions” billboard-behind-another-billboard execution was so convincing that many people posted about it on social media, commenting on the irony of the situation. Then other people commented on how naïve those people were. Then, people said, “Stop being mean. How was I supposed to know? It’s a really clever ad.”

Apparently, Communication Arts agreed.

Old-Fashioned, with a Twist

You shouldn’t drink and drive.

It’s hardly news. For the past 35 years, that’s the message Mothers Against Drunk Driving and law enforcement have championed nationwide. It’s also the message that the Department of Highway Safety hired R&R Partners to promote in Utah.

It seems like a simple assignment—advertising something that everybody already knows. However, that widespread knowledge is also the challenge: How does one take a decades-old message that nobody pays attention to anymore and resay it in a way that changes people’s behavior?

The answer to that question recently resulted in news stories across America. Again. R&R Partners’ drunk driving prevention campaign in Utah regularly generates national headlines. The latest buzz was about R&R turning Salt Lake City bar bathrooms into jail cells, letting patrons see what a DUI looks like moments before deciding whether to drive home or call a cab. In one day, a marketing investment of less than $10,000 turned into more than $100,000 worth of local media attention and millions of dollars in news coverage, nationwide.

Drunk people make bad decisions.

Yes, it’s another obvious observation, but it’s also the key to R&R’s drunk driving prevention success. If people get so drunk they can’t remember their names, how can somebody expect them to remember a TV commercial they saw last week telling them not to drink and drive? Instead, R&R Partners has pushed advertising as close as possible to the point of decision—that moment between when people finish their last beer and pull out their car keys.


The results have been bar tables replaced with prison visiting booths reading, “No designated driver? Get used to this view,” complete with working telephones on both sides of the security glass. Kiddie car rides retrofitted to support adults up to 300 pounds and painted like cop cars, along with the message, “Drive drunk and ride in the real thing.” Toll-free numbers to dial and practice your one phone call from jail with a virtual irate mom, girlfriend, lawyer and others. Billiard balls that simulate drunk driving accidents, coin-op photo booths that produce mug shots, toilet stickers with type so small, it’s only legible if your head is buried in the bowl, (“If you can read this, call a cab.”), and dozens more marketing experiences at football tailgate parties, ski resort lodges, state liquor stores, and pretty much anywhere else people might have a few drinks before driving home.

rForward 2

In addition, billboards near clubs, restaurants, stadiums and bars remind people leaving the parking lots that DUIs result in mandatory arrest, and radio ads (usually heard while driving) run prior to key holiday weekends when drunk driving spikes, like New Year’s Eve and Halloween, letting people know that police will be out in full force, cracking down on DUIs.

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Everyone’s buzzing.

The result of all this point of decision marketing has been surprising. Drunk driving arrests and deaths in Utah have steadily declined since the campaign launched, but that was expected. What nobody knew would happen, however, is that by not running drunk driving television ads and reallocating those funds to more nontraditional marketing executions, the Department of Highway Safety actually increased their presence on TV. By partnering with local businesses, community leaders and sports teams to create innovative DUI prevention messages, R&R Partners also created a steady stream of news coverage that far outweighed what could have been purchased in paid advertising, with approximately $4 in earned media coverage for every dollar spent on the campaign, including agency fees.

For a message that hasn’t been news in decades, you shouldn’t drink and drive, that’s pretty good.