Last week signalled the end of an era for tobacco advertising in
the US. A landscape that has been dominated by tobacco icons has been
changed forever by a deal that was struck between the country’s five
cigarette manufacturers and the US state attorneys.
Outdoor tobacco advertising is extinct as of 23 April. From July, the
distribution and sale of clothing and merchandise with brand-name logos,
and the brand-name sponsorship of events with a significant youth
audience will also be banned.
Not only have the ads been banned but while the companies are still
paying for the billboards - in some cases until the end of the year -
anti-smoking ads have been posted in their place.
Philip Morris’s Marlboro Man and RJR Nabisco’s Joe Camel have over the
years become icons of popular culture. Marlboro Man has been a 64ft-high
fixture above Hollywood’s Sunset Boulevard since 1984 and, in that time,
nine variations of the cowboy have towered above the city, claiming
landmark status. Times Square has been home to a Camel billboard for a
quarter of a century.
Neither character will be forgotten quickly but Camel faces the greater
challenge of the two because of an additional ban on the use of cartoon
characters. This extends to the advertising, packaging or labelling of
tobacco products and has been aimed directly at Joe Camel, who is
thought to appeal to a younger audience.
RJR Nabisco, which also owns the Winston brand, has tried to combat the
outdoor ban by effectively shrinking its posters to the size of its
cigarette packets. It has also been channelling time and money into
point-of-sale promotion at retail outlets, which are now the only place
where outdoor advertising - up to the size of 14 square feet - is
It looks like the options are running out for tobacco companies but most
claim marketing spend will not be adjusted. So where will the dollars be
’Tobacco companies will have to find more ingenious ways of reaching
targets,’ Paul Woolmington, the president of The Media Edge in New York,
says. ’There may be a return to grass-roots marketing or more corporate
involvement by the holding companies.’
The bigger tobacco companies are already descending on US bar owners,
offering them thousands of dollars in exclusive deals. In exchange,
landlords are using bar supplies covered in brand names and agreeing not
to sell rival brands over the bar.
There is also the fate of the outdoor industry to consider. The view
taken by most is that outdoor companies will benefit from the exodus of
Cigarette companies have accumulated most of the prime sites across
America and have been locked into long-term, low-cost rental contracts.
Outdoor companies will now have the opportunity to put up their
’Outdoor is the last great mass medium,’ Woolmington says. ’We can
expect to see the IT, fashion and movie industries all taking advantage
of the space the tobacco deal will release.’