NEWS: Hamlet film starts tobacco ad storm

By KAREN YATES,, Friday, 26 January 1996 12:00AM

Hamlet is squaring up to Europe’s powerful anti-tobacco lobby by returning to cinema advertising in the UK after a seven-year absence.

Hamlet is squaring up to Europe’s powerful anti-tobacco lobby by

returning to cinema advertising in the UK after a seven-year absence.

Gallaher and Hamlet’s agency, Collett Dickenson Pearce, have unveiled a

new 60-second cinema commercial for the cigar brand, taking advantage of

the fact that the voluntary agreement between manufacturers only bans

cigarettes and rolling tobacco from the big screen.

The move breaks no rules, but throws down a challenge to the European

Community, which is gearing up to push through tighter restrictions on

all tobacco advertising across Europe (Campaign, 20 October 1995).

Gallaher last ran cinema ads in 1989, and gave no reason for their

subsequent withdrawal. The company was similarly reticent about its

return: ‘Why not?’ a spokesman asked. ‘We’ve advertised on radio and we

advertise on all media that are available to us. We’ll be interested to

see the reaction from audiences.’

However, Karen Williams, speaking for the anti-smoking group, Ash,

condemned the move as ‘appalling’. She said that Ash would be making a

formal complaint to the Committee for Monitoring Agreements on Tobacco

Advertising and Sponsorship. If it is thrown out, the issue will be

forwarded to the Secretary of State for Health, who has the final

ruling, she said.

‘They [cigar ads] are allowed,’ she said, ‘but they fly in the face of

the spirit of the whole thing. Again and again we see tobacco companies

testing the boundaries.’

The new commercial, which broke in London’s West End at the weekend, was

created by Tim Brooks at CDP and directed by Phillip Lihou at the Moving

Picture Company. The film sticks to Hamlet’s famous theme, ‘Happiness is

a cigar called Hamlet’, as well as its signature tune, Bach’s Air on a G

String, but it shows no people and no cigars.

The spot opens on a plain white screen in which the wordgame, ‘hangman’,

is in progress. When the game is finally lost, the gallows appears

complete with its stick victim, drawn with a sorrowful face. At this

moment, Hamlet’s famous theme music strikes up. A cigar magically

appears in the victim’s hand and he begins to smile. ‘’Appiness is a

cigar called ’Amlet,’ the voiceover says.

A spokesman for the Cinema Advertising Association, which vets cinema

ads before they air, commented: ‘We didn’t think it was controversial.

It is aimed at the older market because it is for cigars, and we only

approved it for 18-certificate films.’

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