Saturday, 31 January 2015

Advertising cigs is a drag

Happy New Year! How are you getting on with your New Year's resolutions?

Mine was to blog 3 times a month, but considering this is my first post of the year, I can safely say I'm not off to a great start. However, my other resolution was to 'shrug things off more' so....


I know someone who's trying to give up smoking in 2015 and it made me start thinking about UK cigarette advertising. How do cigarette companies advertise their product when they're not allowed to? What do the marketing teams do all day? Are there even marketing teams for the likes of Silk Cut and B&H?

Advertising for cigarettes and tobacco was banned on TV in 1965, and then banned in print and billboards in 2003.

bit weird

After this, the best way to advertise the product and stimulate sales was to do it on the packets themselves...

However, a law was passed in 2008 to add graphic imagery health warnings on the packets, covering 30% of the front and 40% of the back.

can't catch a break

And just when ciggie companies thought it couldn't get any worse, in 2012 tobacco displays at the Point Of Sale were prohibited. Meaning this....


So now what? What can tobacco marketers do?

Here's a quote from some anti-ban spokesperson:

"Cigarette advertising does not cause people to take up smoking. Simply put, cigarette advertising has two purposes - to maintain brand loyalty and to encourage smokers to switch brands."

So, how do tobacco brands maintain loyalty/get 10 million UK smokers to switch to their brand successfully, all without advertising?

Brand emails to database

Once you confirm you're over 18, sign up and become part of their database, they can happily send you direct emails filled with the joys of smoking, cheeky vouchers for their ciggies, and amazing holidays you can win simply by chuffing on their fags!

she's the real winner here

One example is Marlboro's "Outwit the West", a team-based 'competition' with cryptic brain teasers. The top 20 teams get invited to the Marlboro ranch, a location where it's 'okay to smoke' and food, drinks and activities are paid for by the company. The team with the most correct answers shares a one million dollar prize. As you can imagine, thousands of teams participate. And of course, once you're on their 28 million person database, they can pelt you with as much advertising as they please.

Jumping on the e-cig bandwagon

Tobacco brands used to come and go, always bringing out new shapes, sizes and tastes. But when was the last time we heard of a new brand of cigs being launched in the UK?

The one thing you CAN advertise is e-cigarettes, and it seems tobacco firms have gone down this route as they've spent £11.5million on e-cigarette advertising in UK this year, bringing the total spending on tobacco advertising up to £60million since 2009. Clearly a money-maker.
You may have seen the great ad for E-Lites with baby doing gangnam style?

(click to watch)

As you can see, rules around advertising e-cigs is much more relaxed, so it seems like tobacco firms have chosen to adapt to the changing times and laws by focusing on newer products.

Subliminal messages and sneaky tactics

So I originally thought cigarette marketers didn't exist, but it seems they are cleverly burrowing away coming up with ways they can creatively slip in triggers to make you think about, or crave, a cig.

Apparently some tobacco employees use social media pretending to be members of the general public to create content that promotes cigarettes....

(click to watch)

Some use product placement with celebrities and 'cool events' ...

DSquared Fashion Show - 2012

Some use other smoking paraphernalia to trigger thoughts of smoking in public areas....

And others, like Marlboro, create subliminal messages in their sponsorship logos. See below when Marlboro created a suspicious looking 'barcode' design on their F1 race cars...  these were eventually removed.

So it seems that if there is a will, there's is in fact a way - marketers simply have to become more quick-thinking and savvy to sell their product. However, I'll end this post with a quote from Mike Moore, the lead negotiator on the Big Tobacco case in 1997...

"They'll find a way to sell their product. Addiction is what they sell. It's an amazing process. Think about it. You sell a product. People get hooked on it. They have to have it. You're in business forever."

'Thank You For Smoking'