Secondhand Smoke PSA Campaign Aims to Help Austin Breathe Easier


New spot directed by Scott McCullough for Sherry Matthews Advocacy Marketing highlights the dangers of secondhand smoke in outdoor environments.

Last Updated: July 29, 2011 7:25 pm GMT
(Austin, Texas--July 29, 2011) A new public service campaign breaking next week for Austin, Texas’ Live Tobacco-Free program makes the point that secondhand smoke is a danger wherever it occurs, indoors or out. Conceived by Sherry Matthews Advocacy Marketing, Austin, and directed by Scott McCullough, the new 30-second spot, in English and Spanish versions, shows a large tanker truck driving through Austin as a worker in a haz-mat suit sprays unsuspecting residents with thick, billowy clouds of noxious fumes.

People at an outdoor restaurant, kids playing in a park and pedestrians strolling along a path react in horror and disgust as they are enveloped by the sooty smoke. The voiceover notes that secondhand cigarette smoke contains 7,000 chemicals, many harmful to humans, and directs consumers to the Live Tobacco-Free Austin website for more information.

Sherry Matthews executive creative director Charles Webre says that the dangers of secondhand smoke in outdoor environments has never before been the target of a public service campaign. “We’re covering new ground,” he notes. “People are aware that secondhand smoke is dangerous, but they often don’t think of it as a problem outside the context of an enclosed, indoor environment.”

McCullough, a well-known commercial, music video and film director whose credits include ads for GMC, Amtrak and Jeep, says he was attracted to the project both because of his own concern over the problem of secondhand smoke, and because he loved the premise. “I thought the tanker truck with the guy in the haz-mat suit was a great visual,” McCullough observes. “And I liked the idea of creating a story about a menace to society that people are a bit naïve to.”

For the production of the spot, Sherry Matthews had a large tanker truck emblazoned with the words “Cigarette Smoke.” The tanker truck builds on one of the agency’s earlier anti-smoking initiatives, where they converted a recreational trailer into a giant ashtray to capitalize on the current popularity of food trucks in Austin. The “Ashtrayler” appears at festivals and other public events in Austin and provides people with information about quitting smoking.

The tanker truck drew a lot of attention when it was driven through Austin for the production of the new PSA, notes Sherry Matthews creative director Wally Williams. “It’s the biggest prop we’ve ever worked with,” he says. “Once we had the tanker truck, we thought our work was done—all we had to do was capture it on film.”

McCullough shot the spot at locations around Austin while working around potential thunderstorms and a half-marathon race held in the city on the same day. Despite the challenge of shooting a large truck on public streets and the need to shoot every scene twice, for the English and Spanish versions, McCullough wrapped the project in a little more than one day.

“We shot in places that people can relate to and where they might encounter people smoking—while eating outdoors, or simply walking down a street,” he observes. “I appreciate spots that are fresh and require thought, planning, creativity and guts. It’s what I strive for.”

McCullough, who is currently seeking a permanent affiliation with a commercial production company, notes that he grew up around smokers and so is especially sensitive to the presence of secondhand smoke. He notes that he took steps to ensure that the production of the commercial itself did not pose a health threat. “The smoke spewed by the man in the haz-mat suit did not come from cigarettes,” he says. “It was a combination of mineral oil, compressed air and water. It’s used all the time in films and live shows and it’s perfectly safe.”

Scott McCullough may be reached at (310) 437-3518 or or by visiting

Sherry Matthews Advocacy Marketing is located at 200 S. Congress Avenue, Austin, Texas 78704. For more information, call (877) 478-4397 or visit

Title: Tanker
Length: 30-seconds
Client: Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services, “Live Tobacco-Free Austin”
Agency: Sherry Matthews Advocacy Marketing, Austin. Charles Webre, executive creative director/art director; Wally Williams, creative director/writer; Gwen Williams, account director; Margaret Moore, agency producer
Production: Bill Pridham, producer at Reveal Productions, Dallas
Director/DP: Scott McCullough
Editor: Walker Schupp
Colorist: Steve Franco at AndTransfer, Dallas


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