Abstract Background.African Americans have traditionally made little use of the Cancer Information Service (CIS), an information and education program of the National Cancer Institute, for smoking cessation assistance. This study evaluated whether a targeted communications campaign utilizing strategically placed radio and television advertisements in combination with community outreach could lead more adult African American smokers to call the CIS for smoking cessation information and materials. Methods.Fourteen communities, served by four CIS regional offices, were carefully matched on demographic variables and then randomly assigned to either an experimental or a control group. Six radio advertisements targeting African American smokers to call the CIS for help in quitting smoking were developed and pretested for three different black-oriented formats. One television spot also was produced and pretested. The audio portion of the television ad was utilized as a seventh radio spot for the general programming formats. These advertisements were placed on selected radio and television stations reaching predominantly African American adult audiences. Also, copies of a videotape designed to motivate African American smokers to quit and to call the CIS for help in quitting were widely disseminated through community-based organizations in each experimental market. The aim was to increase the number and proportion of quitting-related calls to the CIS from African Americans within experimental communities. Results.The call volume from African American smokers was significantly higher in the experimental communities than in the control communities ( P< 0.008). The call rate from African American men was higher than typically observed. Overall, African Americans in the experimental communities reported radio more often than television as the way they heard about the CIS. Conclusion.The results suggest that paid targeted advertising, using radio as a primary channel, is an effective method of reaching an underserved population at risk. Future research directions are discussed.