We were thrilled at the challenge, but to be honest, the idea of completely overhauling a highly successful campaign like Own Your C was a daunting one.

I’m on the afternoon flight from Denver to New York when it dawns on me that it’s really going to happen.

About a month earlier, a few of us at AgencyNet had just gotten off the phone with our friends at Cactus Marketing to discuss “Own Your C,” the award-winning public service campaign that just two years earlier had blown the doors off of the way campaigns talk to teens about choosing not to smoke. The conversation was simple and to the point.

“It’s time to give ‘Own Your C’ a serious facelift,” we all agreed.

Since the launch of the campaign in 2006, the media landscape had changed dramatically, and with it, consumer behavior indisputably had changed as well. It was time to rally around the cause that had inspired such creativity the first time around, and do it all over again.

We were thrilled at the challenge, but to be honest, the idea of completely overhauling a highly successful campaign like Own Your C was a daunting one.

How do we follow THAT, we all thought.


As with the first iteration of Own Your C, AgencyNet based its’ thinking on Cactus’ simple and well-articulated point of view that no teen in their right mind wants to be TOLD not to smoke. If they haven’t already heard it from a parent, teacher, or TV role model, they certainly wouldn’t want to hear it from us. Furthermore, research across the board shows that talking down to teens isn’t just unappealing, it’s actually completely ineffective.

Turns out, your “brain on drugs” would much rather decide for itself.

As a result, the spirit behind the Own Your C campaign has always been to empower teens to take charge of their own choices, ultimately encouraging smarter, healthier decisions in everything they do. Your choices define you—but it’s your call.

Taking this insight and looking out at all that’s happening across the social web, it wasn’t hard to see that teens are more empowered to communicate than ever before. More and more each day, teens are online sharing emotions—posting videos, photos, and comments—for the whole world to see. In turn, they expect feedback, opinions, and a dialogue.

All of this just served as further proof that the power of peer influence, both in the real world and online, is second to none. Social networks are just the latest way that teens reach out for connection and affirmation, and when a peer speaks, they absolutely listen.


Knowing this, our solution was to give teens what they want most—a soapbox to express themselves.

We envisioned a rich, immersive environment that would invite users in, encouraging exploration, dialogue, and above all—debate. We knew that the same power of peer influence that might cause a teen to smoke in the first place also had the power to inspire positive change when put to constructive use.

We knew that Own Your C needed more than a campaign—it needed a community.


Just days later, we invited our clients in for an all-day “Discovery” session at AgencyNet’s New York office. It would be the first of two crucial meetings to get approval on the concept, and our first chance to share our vision for the new Own Your C community.

The night before the meeting, many of us wondered if we’d taken our approach too far—after all, does the world really need another web-based community? Does the Colorado State Tobacco Education & Prevention Partnership have any interest in sponsoring one? Are they even legally able to? Maybe it would have been a better idea to recommend something safer, something more like… well… what we had now?

It didn’t take long to realize during our meeting with Cactus that this community idea was more than just a pipe dream— this had to happen. Eyes lit up. Ideas started pouring out of ideas. The whiteboard filled up with enthusiastic scribbles.

We had our concept.


A few weeks later, I flew out to Denver to present our concept along with Cactus to the State of Colorado. Looking over my notes on the flight, it felt good knowing that we had earned and kept Cactus’ trust during our session in New York, but I knew full well that presenting to the State would be a different game altogether.

Pulling into the government complex—much more like an office park than the Fort Knox I had imagined on the flight out—I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Here goes nothing!

As I walked the State through the very same consumer and Digital strategy that had AgencyNet so excited about the Own Your C community concept in the first place, any apprehension that was there in the client’s mind quickly dissipated as we revealed our thinking.

From the start, the Own Your C campaign has been about helping teens to understand that the choices they make truly define and shape who they are. The new ownyourC.com takes that thought, couples it with teens’ natural behavior socializing online, and offers them a canvas to share their stories. It’s about connection, community, and having a place to realize that whatever you’re facing, you’re not alone.

Maybe the most gratifying moment in the meeting came when one of the more senior clients in the room spoke candidly about her own naiveté when it came to Digital, saying she’d frankly never gotten the appeal of it, until now. Her thank you meant a lot me—and we were fortunate enough to have a client who gave us their full trust and support.

Without that, nothing else really would have mattered.


When all was said and done, we’d go on to build the new ownyourC.com 2.0, a rich online community allowing teens to share their opinions about the choices they face each and every day.

Taking advantage of the latest technologies to provide the community with the most robust and user-friendly experience possible, we developed the front-end using Flash 9 and Papervision for the streamlined rendering of 3-D 0bjects, and used Adobe Flex for all Action Scripting.

Teens can express themselves through text, photo, or video—and we’re even building in the ability to record yourself live on webcam directly within the site. From smoking, to fast food, to the existence of UFOs, every choice in this community matters.

A robust Content Management System, developed in ASP.NET 3.5 on a Windows Server Platform, makes the piles and piles of data parsed by the site invisible to the end user, and an elaborate filtering system allows teens to view responses in a way that is most meaningful to them.

The fully integrated and synergistic campaign also includes a series of 15-second TV spots, online rich media banners, and Live “C-Ride” events that invite teens to participate in the new ownyourC.com 2.0 community.

And today, we’re proud to call ownyourC.com the FWA site of the day.


AgencyNet is a full-service, award winning digital marketing agency with offices in New York, NY and Ft. Lauderdale, FL.

Specializing in developing emotionally engaging and strategic Digital brand experiences, we are extremely proud that our work has been the recipient of over 125 high-profile awards including an Interactive Emmy, FWA Top 20 agency sites in history and 2-time SOTM winners, Cannes Lion, Web Marketing Association's Best Interactive Service Web Site, South by Southwest's Best in Show, as well as The Webby.

Over the last 14 years we have developed robust Brand Portals, ideated successful Buzz Generation Campaigns, created ubiquitous Digital Content, and served as a strategic consulting partner to some of the world’s most recognized and respected brands.

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