EmComm, Friends of the Public Garden collaborate on ‘No Smoking’ advertisement campaign


Kellyn Taylor

“No Smoking.”

By Adri Pray, Editor-at-large

EmComm, the college’s student-run marketing agency, is collaborating with the Friends of the Public Garden to advertise its “No Smoking” campaign, which will be implemented later this year.

The Beacon Hill-based nonprofit approached administration officials in October with the idea for the campaign, wondering if Emerson had an on-campus marketing organization that could help them advertise.

By November, the Friends were put in contact with EmComm. At the start of the spring 2023 semester, co-Presidents Kim O’Donnell and Sam Duggan began delegating tasks to the agency’s three core teams: strategy, experience, and creative.

“Smoking in the Common and in the Public Garden is illegal, but unfortunately, not a lot of people are aware of that,” O’Donnell, a sophomore business of creative enterprises major said. “We were charged with coming up with a campaign that would deter smoking in those spaces and also in the Downtown district.”

In a typical campaign, the strategy department has the heaviest workload, tasked with researching target audiences and competitive analysis. The department also condenses information for the creative and experience teams, who then create respective “deliverables” for the client. The creative team has a heavy hand in shaping the aesthetic of the products through digital visuals while the experience team organizes more event-oriented ideas.

This campaign, however, relied heavily on the creative team, specifically focusing on the placement of the advertisements and the experience of walking through the park, according to Verita Hsu, the organization’s treasurer and account manager.

“There are a lot of people that we are talking to and working with, and then also internally, there’s different projects for different teams,” Hsu, a senior marketing major said. “It’s my role to oversee all of them.”

Several municipal officials were present throughout EmComm’s collaboration with the Friends, including representatives of the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Downtown Boston Business Improvement District, the Boston Public Health Commission, and the Boston Police Department.

“They were very understanding that students have multiple responsibilities… and they wouldn’t be able to treat this thing like [EmComm was] a [professional] agency,” said Michael Tucker, EmComm’s faculty advisor. “Once that got established, we went into full on pro-level promo mode and took all the steps we needed to get the thing done.”

The agency took an environmentally aware approach to the campaign, choosing to focus on the effects of smoking on wildlife rather than “alienating” smokers with explicit “No Smoking” signage.

“Smoking is a deeply-rooted personal behavior,” O’Donnell said. “It’s a habit. It’s an addiction. You can’t really convince people not to smoke. You have to turn the focus into, ‘You can’t smoke here,’ or ‘You have to smoke elsewhere in these specific hours,’ or whatever that may be.” 

A main challenge was finding a way to address all types of smoking, not just tobacco smoking. In the research phase, the agency discussed whether to target the Boston community specifically or all visitors in common green spaces. 

“What we decided was it would be most effective to target residents, including the student population, because they’re the people who are repeatedly using the Common,” O’Donnell said.

Placement of the signs is as important as content, O’Donnell continued. EmComm’s strategy team worked hard to research the aesthetic view of the Garden to come up with a sustainable strategy that wouldn’t take over the park but would still remind visitors of the long-lasting impacts smoking and littering has on the vegetation.

“One of the things we really wanted to lean into was the wildlife protection of native animals of the park: squirrels, frogs, birds, and pets that are walking around,” she said. Rather than permanent metal signs, they discussed “temporary signage, like sandwich boards that you can put out to give temporary warnings because people who are using the park all the time will see those signs every day and remember them.” 

O’Donnell, Hsu, Tucker, and other members of the organization presented their creative ideas to the Friends last Tuesday. 

“Hopefully, they’ll take what we brought to them and they’ll take what they like, they’ll change what they don’t like, and then put that out into the world,” O’Donnell said.

Measuring the success of the campaign is an undertaking for future executive boards, Hsu said, though she does think it would be a great way to see how effective the campaign is.  

“You want these to be the most stolen posters ever,” Tucker said. “You want to have to constantly replace these things because everyone thinks it’s so cool and everyone wants them.”

Maddie Barron contributed to the reporting.