Does an Ad Work if it Annoys the Heck Out of You?

Does the larynx cancer guy bug you as much as he does me? In case you’ve somehow missed him, the larynx cancer guy is an anti-tobacco spokesman whose TV commercial seems to be on every station every minute of the day.

The larynx cancer guy first appeared a couple of years ago. He walked around a pool, telling us that he once loved to swim. But, because of throat cancer caused by smoking, he now has a hole where his larynx once was. As a result, he’d drown if he dove into the pool. The capper, though, was his voice. It was unbelievably irritating, sounding something like a cross between E.T. and a robot.

The campaign ran for a period of time and, thought I, the larynx cancer guy had made his point and would go wherever it is that anti-tobacco spokespeople go.

But, he’s back. And, he’s even more annoying and more in your face than before. I’ve heard countless people tell me how turned off they are by the new spots. The larynx guy has, in fact, become synonymous with channel surfing.

So, when one defines success in advertising, does this sort of negative reaction register? Is grossing people out considered a win? We all know smoking kills. But, do we need to keep seeing and hearing this annoying, irritating little man with the hole in his throat? He seems to be the anti-tobacco industry’s answer to the Dell guy, who was equally annoying. Remember him?

So, while I respect the need for the message, here’s hoping the larynx cancer guy soon disappears in a puff of smoke and joins other annoying ad pitchmen of the past like Crazy Eddie, the Jolly Green Giant and countless local Mazda dealers.

7 thoughts on “Does an Ad Work if it Annoys the Heck Out of You?

  1. Hi Steve,
    Speaking of annoying ads-your blog-10/16, am I the only one who feels a bit queasy about the Volkswagen ad when Brooke Shields say, “….don’t have babies for German engineering…? reminiscent of the Nazi era when Hitler gathered the finest specimen of males and females to produce the finest babies for Germany’s Third Reich?

  2. Thanks Joe the Smoker. I agree that the ad is effective. If it wasn’t, it wouldn’t have stood out from the pack (pun intended) and I wouldn’t have written about it. The question was rhetorical. Btw, are you related to Joe the Plumber?

  3. “Is an ad considered effective if it pisses off most people, but elicits the desired response of the target?”
    Umm, yes?

  4. You bet it’s effective. Case in point… I am sure Outback Steak House ads annoy PETA members, (and they sure aren’t going to pop in for a ribeye!) but the chain is thriving. I’m not saying the guy isn’t annoying, but maybe that’s part of his “charm” and it sure is giving focus to the campaign.

  5. Got it, Bubbles. But, back to my original question. Is an ad considered effective if it pisses off most people, but elicits the desired response of the target?

  6. I quit smoking one year ago yesterday, and I assure you the fear of getting throat cancer, or toting one of those oxygen canisters around definitely influenced my decision to finally quit. Of course the concern was always there, but putting a face to the fears so graphically made a difference. A picture is worth 1,000 words, and as creepy as this guy is, he makes a difference. You need to remember that you are not their target audience. Smokers are.