Innovation

How tech and data analytics are being used to end smoking in young adults and teens

Adobe is working with the non-profit Truth Initiative to use its digital platform to raise awareness among 12- to 24-year-olds about the dangers of smoking.

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Truth Initiative is aiming to stop smoking among youths.

Image: Truth Initiative

Truth Initiative, the largest national youth tobacco prevention organization, is working with Adobe to adapt its message for tech-savvy youths and young adults.

The non-profit Truth Initiative has been around for 17 years, but only recently began leveraging data analytics in its attempt to encourage youth to end smoking through its Truth campaign. The organization did this because young adults and teens consume media on up to five devices at once, making it difficult to reach them. Truth's broad audience is 12- to 24-year-olds, but the more narrow focus is 15- to 21-year-olds.

"We want to expose the true facts of the tobacco industry's marketing practices, and how they essentially hooked a generation of young people to be replacement smokers," said Dio Favatas, managing director of digital marketing at Truth Initiative.

In 2000, 23% of teens smoked. Now, that number is at 6%. "Our goal is to eradicate it as a problem, period. And essentially, our campaign moniker is we encourage young people to be the generation that ends smoking," Favatas said.

SEE: Tech's war on drugs: How big data is being used to fight the US opioid epidemic (ZDNet)

By working with Adobe, Truth can reach its target audience more effectively by building unique audience profiles with personalized campaigns. Since Truth began working with Adobe, the organization has seen three times the number of conversions with ads compared to other digital tactics in the past. Before, Truth mostly used broadcast TV to reach young adults and teens. Now, it uses social media and other digital platforms such as Snapchat, Facebook, YouTube, and Vevo.

"And so, while we've always been an analysis-focused organization, we've always done metric studies, attitudinal studies and qualitative studies in-field, which really helped shape the creative and the broadcast strategy. As we've become more and more of an online player because we need to reach eyeballs where they are, it's a necessary requirement not only to have a tech staff that can support delivery, but also a staff that can help us analyze real-time data, then synthesize real-time data from multiple different sources," Favatas said.

"So, between walled gardens and unwalled gardens, between our own analytics production, which is Adobe Analytics, and our CRM, with our ad servers, DSPs such as Adobe Advertising Cloud for displaying video, or other new emerging ways that we deliver media, we realized that there was a need to have a centralized location to bring in all the data points," he said.

"Your typical marketing apparatus would say, 'okay, I've got analytics on my website, then I can go ahead and analyze what our website interactions mean.' That's all browser-based stuff and in order to be able to do anything with that, you need a person to come to your website. When you go down the path of data management, you're using a CRM to collect data from various places. We have lots of partnerships out there where we actually ask young people to join the movement to end smoking, and we might capture them on multiple different sources, not just our website, thetruth.com.

"On the same note, since you're talking about hundreds of millions of impressions of media being served elsewhere other than on thetruth.com, so whether it be on video networks and display networks, on social platforms, etc., that's a lost opportunity if you can't actually capture that information, the data, the bites of data and bring it back into a central stack. And so this is why we partnered with Adobe," he said.

Truth uses Adobe Analytics for browser-based behavior, along with its ad servers. "Then, on the outside edge, we have Adobe Audience Manager, which synthesizes all of the inputs across these different platforms, whether they live on our website or elsewhere. And then now we're also in the process of rolling out Adobe Target so that we can leverage these advanced segments and the analysis that we gain in Audience Manager, as well as the browser-based behavior that we're capturing in Adobe Analytics, and then offer people personalized experiences as they interact with the website," he said.

"This matters because when push comes to shove, we don't sell anything. We're in the business of saving lives. And if I'm gonna save lives, I need to move people through a much more complex funnel, and if I can make your experience great from the first touch with the Truth campaign to the last touch, and also help move you along the paradigm so that you will eventually become part of the generation to end smoking, an actual, what we call a 'finisher,' we want to provide you with the best possible in-media experience, on-site experience, and then also increasingly we're looking to a future where even our SMS messaging programs and our email messaging programs are leveraging the same technology and capabilities," Favatas said.

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Image: Truth Initiative

Ali Bohra, director of product marketing for Adobe Audience Manager, said many of its customers have dealt with a similar situation, as their audience has moved from watching TV screens to watching a multitude of digital screens. "From an Adobe perspective, we reframed our solutions around the Experience Cloud because we realized that in order for marketers and for companies and organizations such as the Truth Initiative, their goal is really to deliver the right experience to the audience that they care about."

Truth talks to the 94% of young adults and teens who are non-smokers and shows them the facts about marketing from the tobacco industry. The impact of that truth to non-smokers, and the 6% who do already smoke, is tremendous, Favatas said.

Truth says the tobacco industry has used unfair marketing practices to target low-income urban communities and the LGBTQ population, and the campaign shows the facts about these practices to try to stop young adults from smoking. "This summer, we launched a campaign to coincide with Pride and then campaigned through the summer about how the tobacco industry has been targeting LGBTQ population," Favatas said.

But since not every group of young adults or teens will want to talk about inequalities in the urban or LGBTQ communities, it's easier to find the influencers that will impact each population by using the Adobe Audience Manager platform. Truth uses the platform to analyze a population for its typographic, demographic and geographic parameters, as well as the attitudes and behaviors within that community. This allows Truth to reinforce and better target its media strategy.

Favatas said, "I can safely say that by leveraging the power of our Adobe hybrid stacks and other technologies, we've been able to create very good look-alike audiences to deliver our LGBTQ messaging, for instance. Which is important because, as I mentioned as a prelude, we're trying to lean into a subset of the population there. But more broadly, the 94%. So it's one of these amazing times when we're shedding more light on the industry's practices, but also, not just the everyday faces of people that are affected by tobacco and tobacco-related illness, but also these subpopulations that are really being preyed upon, in my opinion."

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About Teena Maddox

Teena Maddox is a Senior Writer at TechRepublic, covering hardware devices, IoT, smart cities and wearables. She ties together the style and substance of tech. Teena has spent 20-plus years writing business and features for publications including Peo...

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