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Fresh Empire Campaign

Fresh Empire

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FDA launched the “Fresh Empire” campaign in 2015. When the campaign launched, research showed that nearly five million African American, Hispanic, and Asian American and Pacific Islander youth were open to smoking or were already experimenting with cigarettes1 —highlighting youth that could benefit from tobacco prevention efforts designed for them.

Our Goal: Prevent and reduce cigarette smoking among youth ages 12-17 who identify with hip-hop culture, specifically African American, Hispanic, and Asian American and Pacific Islander youth. “Fresh Empire” was the first large-scale smoking prevention media campaign designed to reach this population.

Campaign Research

How We Used Research to Develop “Fresh Empire”

The “Fresh Empire” campaign was based on extensive research with teens, including focus groups and message testing conducted in schools across multiple cities and states. The campaign used a peer crowd approach and focused on teens who identified with hip-hop culture and were at greater risk for tobacco use. The peer crowd approach goes beyond what the audience looks like – it’s about values and norms; what the audience talks about, what they care about, and what’s relevant to their lives. 

What we learned: 

  • Aspirational messages, such as working hard to achieve success and attaining control, were well received.  
  • Campaign ads with actors who looked like our audience in relatable situations, came across as authentic. 
  • Tobacco prevention messages needed to be straightforward and direct to be effective.  

Through testing, we also learned the audience responded most positively to these facts: 

  • Younger brothers and sisters are more likely to smoke cigarettes when their older brothers or sisters smoke.
  • Cigarettes are addictive.
  • Smoking cigarettes causes lung cancer.
  • Cigarette smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, including many that are toxic, and over 70 chemicals that can cause cancer. 
  • On average, smokers die at least 10 years younger than nonsmokers.

Our Approach

To reach this group of youth in the hip-hop peer crowd, a tailored campaign was developed that spoke to the audience’s values and experiences. This included interactive marketing tactics featuring hip-hop music, fashion, dance, and art. These tactics included:  

  • Traditional advertising such as television, print, and radio 
  • Digital advertising, such as streaming and online video 
  • Social media to engage the audience
  • Influencers to share authentic and relatable messages
  • Local events for youth featuring hip-hop music and dance 
  • Interactive websites with games, quizzes, and contests 

Our Impact

The “Fresh Empire” campaign ended in 2020 and was successful in reaching at-risk youth through primarily digital channels. Some key learnings and accomplishments include: 

  • Reached over 95 percent of the intended audience through a mix of traditional and digital advertising (social media, billboards, tv and radio ads), and within the first 4 years of the campaign, advertising was seen more than 6.6 billion times. 
  • Featuring real and relatable actors and influencers who demonstrated the importance of living tobacco-free to achieve goals was well received. 
  • Generated over 424 million social media engagements, such as a like or a comment, and over 11.9 million web visitors. Many of these engagements resulted from interactive digital advertising, such as contests for youth to write raps about their experiences with tobacco and why they are tobacco-free. 
  • Active presence on social media channels, including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter. Social media content tailored to the audience interests in dance, music and fashion engaged the audience, fostered two-way communication, and built credibility.  
  • Won multiple awards, including an Association of National Advertisers Multicultural Excellence Award, 8 Telly Awards, and 6 Hermes Awards. 

“Fresh Empire” Campaign – Reaching Youth Where They Are   

  • Conducted in-person outreach at community-based events that encouraged youth to be tobacco-free. Through these efforts, we engaged over 1.5 million youth at 1700+ local events.
  • Used a variety of popular hip-hop influencers and youth ambassadors to promote tobacco-free social norms and make the messages relatable. 

Campaign Evaluation Highlights

FDA conducted a longitudinal study on the impact of the “Fresh Empire” campaign. Key findings from the evaluation include: 

  • The campaign achieved high levels of awareness with its audience.
  • Campaign messages were received positively by the audience. 
  • Several beliefs changed positively as a result of campaign exposure, including beliefs related to cigarette addiction/control and being a bad influence on family and friends. 

Campaign Ads



You Got Her Back Fresh Empire Poster
They Hope I Deliver Fresh Empire Poster

Select campaign print advertisements are available in the FDA Tobacco Education Resource Library.



  • Hermes Awards 
    • 2020 Gold: Social Marketing category 
    • 2020 Platinum: Social Media category 
    • 2019 Gold: Social Video category 
    • 2019 Platinum: Social Marketing category 
    • 2018 Platinum: Event Marketing category 
    • 2018 Gold: Website Overall - Government category 
  • Telly Awards 
    • 2019 Gold: Craft - Use of Graphics for Online Commercials category 
    • 2019 Silver: Craft - Use of 3D Animation for Online Commercials 
    • 2019 Bronze: General - Health and Wellness for Online Commercials 
    • 2018 Bronze: Motivational for Online category  
    • 2018 Bronze: Campaign: Social Responsibility for Branded Content category  
    • 2017 Silver: Motivational” category for Video / Shows / Segments 
    • 2017 Bronze: Public Interest & Awareness Promotional Pieces category 
  • 2017 Association of National Advertisers (ANA) 
    • Winner, Multicultural Excellence Awards, Experiential category 
  • Shorty Social Good Awards 
    • 2017 finalist in the Instagram category 
    • 2016 finalist in the Public Health category

1. Based on 2013 data from NYTS on experimentation and openness to smoking among youth and 2014 youth population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.

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