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Just Say Huh?

A very cloudy anti-smoking campaign aimed at kids.

Since the rise of the Internet, whenever the subject of "kids these days" comes up, someone inevitably points out that the kids just have too much information to deal with. It's the go-to excuse. Heinous SAT scores? Well, what did you expect, what with all that information being forced down their throats? Increase in drinking and drugs? Well, how would you respond if you had to deal with all that information, what with all those ring-tones and text messages and the like? It's as if these kids wake up wanting nothing more than to go fishing and catch grasshoppers, maybe hold hands on the Ferris wheel at the state fair, and what happens? That insatiable date-rapist Information storms into their rooms, pries open their jaws with its electronic fists and pours itself inside their nubile teen torsos.

From there, it's all single-parenthood and meth addiction.

When I was a teen, outside of Al Gore and that guy in Brit Lit who smelled like sponges, no one really knew what the Internet was. Cell phones weren't that prevalent, and when a kid showed up one day with a mix tape that was on a CD, not a tape, we pretty much felt like man had just landed on the moon. In other words, we were not inundated with the dreaded information that so taints our precious youth today. And even then, people said there was too much information around. Not like when I was a kid, they would say. Too many influences, too many outside forces.

The difference between when I was a kid and now is that kids these days are coddled. When I was caught smoking as a teenager, for example, my dad strapped on his golf cleats, had me rest my head on the bottom of the slide at the playground, looking up, and then threw himself feet-first down that slide as fast as he could go, thoroughly obliterating my face in the process. I never smoked again. Today, though, instead of taking the stern approach, adults try to meet kids on their level. If it's information these overstimulated little bastards want, by god, it's information they'll get. Just check out Colorado's latest anti-smoking campaign, Own Your C, for proof.

I learned of Own Your C when I caught one of its commercials recently. In a vaguely SNL, TV Funhouse-looking cartoon, a boy named Omnipoteen is walking with his dog when he sees a girl fall into a well. At the same time, he spies a hamburger stand. He asks, "Oh, Great Choice Master, what should I do?" -- and a giant head appears and says, "Be careful, Omnipoteen, all your choices have consequences." Omnipoteen opts for the burger, and then the giant head shoots lasers out of his eyes and destroys Omnipoteen. Then the viewer is instructed to go to www.ownyourc.com, a site as baffling as the commercial.

Imagine if Ren and Stimpy somehow fucked Wallace and Gromit, removing any sort of talent or creativity in the process, then birthed a love child who went on to have an acid trip at a Raffi concert culminating in his vomiting up a website. That's what this site looks like. Little claymation characters dance and prance about the animated town of C-ville -- which stands for Choiceville -- while miniature skiers ride up a mountain with a snow globe at the top. A twisted, mangled highway leads to a drive-in movie theater where worms are ushers, while on the other side of town there's a lake that, when you click on it, leads you to a cootie-catcher that walks you through various choices. Oh, and there's also a giant sun with a face and a Jamaican accent that says things like "I am burning up" or "It's okay, you can stare at me." The point of this seizure-inducing visual orgy? To prevent teenagers from smoking, of course.

"The idea behind the campaign is choices," explains Jodi Kopke, marketing director for the Colorado Tobacco Education and Prevention Partnership, which launched the $1 million ad buy (out of $13 million earmarked for youth education) on September 18. "It's about the choices teens make, how those choices define them and how that relates to tobacco."

The site also features facts about the deleterious effects of smoking and suggestions for ways to quit. Why this information is sandwiched between hopping cartoon frogs and haggard flowers, limp and weak from cigarette smoke, is beyond me. But not beyond AgencyNet, the company that designed the site, which explains that it "skillfully integrated traditional and new media, featuring a cacophony of illustration, sounds, green-screen video, 3D characters and stop-motion animation to create a quirky and irreverent interactive world, chock full of choice."

Allow me to translate: "We realize teens these days are cracked-out, overmedicated, little ADD fuckers, so we made a website that is so completely baffling those half-wits can't help but stop here for a few minutes before eventually googling bukkake."

Now, aren't you glad you voted for the 2004 state tobacco-excise tax that funded this campaign? I know I am.

Teens, I don't know if this site is going to work for you, but I hope it does -- although if it does, you probably have bigger problems that smoking. Regardless, the sooner you quit, the healthier you'll be. But if you try to quit and fail, feel free to give What's So Funny a call. My old man's looking mighty bored these days, and those golf cleats are just gathering dust.

 
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