Research type 
Year of report 

Summary of findings


General context:

There were a lot of people who knew very little about quitting methods and some who could be quite knowledgeable about what methods were available and what support services offered.  Some had used the services and reported back positively, although there were always complaints that the service was rationed.

Levels of knowledge of quitting methods powerfully influenced responses to the creative work.  Some messages were clearly more appropriate for those with greater knowledge. It is not easy to find an approach equally appealing to those with and without knowledge/experience of various quitting methods

Role of NHS in communications

NHS logo always seen as dominant (vs local services branding and Smokefree)

  • Communicated: clinical, medical
  • Embodied by ‘your local GP’ or nearby hospital

NHS implied ‘widely available’, ‘free’, ultimately ‘trustworthy’

  • But also seen as bureaucratic, inflexible, slow-moving

Suggesting a service that was national, but implemented through the local GP surgery

  • NHS venues, administered by NHS staff

“If you know it’s NHS you know it’s something for free, rather than a firm trying to flog you an expensive stop smoking remedy” Younger family, Men, Barnes

“You know it’s genuine, it’s not some money-making con” Younger family, Women, Leeds

NHS branding clearly connected support services to the Government and general stop smoking activity.  It gave local services a stamp of authority.  Although it could also become associated with negative national issues with NHS News stories that focussed on waiting times and funding.  It could act as a back-up adding authority and substance to local services.

Regional NHS less familiar

Participants tended to think in terms of the hospital/surgery to which they were nearest.  They’re not familiar with regional NHS (eg NHS Bristol).  Services across a city did not feel meaningful.

Those outside large cities were more in need of reassurance that there were services available for them.  So ‘South West Smoking’  could reassure those in Tiverton, say, that this was a service that extended beyond a big city like Bristol

But for those in Exeter, say, it played less of a role.

The idea of a ‘Bristol’ Stop Smoking Service was not an especially meaningful distinction to those living in large cities.  Especially those in a suburb, away from the city centre

“Just because it’s “Leeds” it doesn’t mean it’s local TO ME. Kings Hospital for instance is not that convenient, it involves getting a taxi. Plus as a single mother I don’t have childcare and money to spend on taxis like that”  Younger family, Women, Leeds

Quitters wanted to know what was available for them in their local area. Thinking about their local high street, community centre suburb it’s Erdington, not Birmingham

“While Hammersmith is closer to me, it’s not my borough so if I saw one of these ads in the supermarket I would assume it was for Hammersmith residents, not Richmond residents” Older family, Women, Barnes

Such information is all the more powerful if it can be salient

  • The clinic ‘just around the corner’
  • Or hearing that your neighbour has been there

Local focus = accessibility

It was highly motivating to think that there were services ‘just around the corner’, making them feel easy to access.  But also part of the local community.  The very notion of local suggested that the service would be approachable and friendly. But as we have seen it is a very tight definition of local – your own high street, or community area

Branding hierarchy

  • We found that NHS branding currently dominated response. Currently much more familiar than anything else. Placed in the most prominent position so eyes naturally drawn to it
  • Until Smokefree gained a strong separate identity it felt that it risked being overshadowed by the NHS branding. Could be seen more as a sign off, than as a brand in itself. And often seen as an NHS sub-brand
  • The phone number always recognised as a call to action. Although many spotted that it was 0845. Which triggered the usual complaints and request for an 0800 number


This research raises some interesting issues about the potential benefits of reinforcing the regional message.  Quitters tended to be more concerned about the personal proximity / approachability / ease of use of support services, rather than regionality.

In rural areas a focus on the region might reassure quitters that the service offered was not confined to the large cities.  But that is less of an issue of regional chauvinism than a reassurance that there will indeed be a service close by.

Using non-medical locations would seem to help communicate that the service has greater accessibility and convenience than would be expected.


Research objectives


The main objectives of the research were to:


  • Assess reactions to the potential ideas and executions
  • Explore communication for each idea and execution
  • Look at reactions to creative executions
  • Understand how motivating these were to R&M smokers
  • And how they would encourage R&M smokers to use or consider their LSSS
  • Explore tone of voice




Currently, different regions and local PCT’s are creating their own Tobacco Control campaigns.  These are aimed to build awareness and generate more enquiries and greater usage of the services.  They may or may not align with the national campaign. The intention is for the regional advertising agency to create a suite of materials for use by regions and PCT’s and avoiding the need for individual regions and PCT’s to create their own campaigns. Research was needed to explore the main proposition areas under consideration and to assess whether regional level campaigns can work.

Quick summary


Qualitative research to explore reactions to the ideas for new local campaign executions and understand how motivating they are to R&M smokers

Audience Summary





Representative mix




Social Class




Data collection methodology

Focus groups

Detailed region


Barnes, SW London; Leeds; Erdington, Birmingham

Fieldwork dates


March 2009

Contact Name

Gill Carruthers



Senior research manager

Agree to publish



Research agency

The Nursery

COI Number