GLOBAL BRIEF: Deal removes tobacco posters from US landscape - But the US outdoor sector is likely to benefit from the decision, Jade Garrett says

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.

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

allowed.



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

redirected?



’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

tobacco advertisers.



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

rates.



’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.’



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