This thesis examines the persuasiveness of anti-smoking television advertisements aimed at teens and produced by Philip Morris's Youth Smoking Prevention Program and the American Legacy Foundation's truth campaign. The advertisements are analyzed rhetorically using Kenneth Burke's dramatistic approach, supplemented by theory related to persuasive advertising, characteristics of at-risk adolescents, persuasive attack, and persuasive defense (apologia).

The analysis indicates that strong central themes present in both the Philip Morris and truth campaigns act as a means of rhetorical persuasion, but are not necessarily rhetoric designed to persuade adolescents not to smoke cigarettes. The truth campaign advertisements contain both strengths and weaknesses. The weakness of the truth ads is related to an over-reliance on allegory-type scenarios meant to communicate anti-smoking sentiments and the theme of manipulation. Truth ads that contain clearer messages conveyed by appealing central characters are a more effective means of communicating not only an anti-smoking ideology, but also the theme of adolescent empowerment.

This thesis's analysis more alarmingly indicates that the Philip Morris ads are in no way an effective means of smoking prevention. The Philip Morris campaign acts as a persuasive defense with the intended purpose of image repair and may encourage adolescents to think of Philip Morris and their tobacco products in a positive light.

Conclusions suggest that due to the vast impact of media the glorifies smoking and other self-injurious behaviors; infrequent appearance of pro-social media appeals; insidious coercive tactics of the tobacco industry; possible limitations in determining the effectiveness of pro-social media appeals due to adolescent self-perception (or third person effect variables); and lack of attention paid to more vulnerable or at-risk youth, the real need may not be better pro-social media campaigns, but rather media literacy campaigns. In doing so, youth may become empowered, critical thinkers able to make life choices based on personal preference and the desire for self-fulfillment, instead of being coerced into a belief system induced by the bombardment of media.



College and Department

Fine Arts and Communications; Communications



Date Submitted


Document Type





Philip Morris, American Legacy Foundation, Kenneth Burke, rhetorical analysis, persuasive advertising, dramatism, persuasive attack, persuasive defense, at-risk adolescent, anti-smoking campaigns, media literacy



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Communication Commons