OPINION: Is Hamlet taking a huge risk with its cinema ad?

Does Hamlet deserve brickbats or bouquets from the advertising community for its return (Campaign, last week) to the big screen?

Does Hamlet deserve brickbats or bouquets from the advertising community

for its return (Campaign, last week) to the big screen?



One could argue - and clearly Gallaher and Collett Dickenson Pearce

would - that there were no statutory powers preventing it from going

back on to cinema, only a voluntary code. So why not? After all, those

agreements were conceived in another era, and times change. Moreover, by

bowing to the public’s anti-tobacco sentiment, the tobacco companies are

in danger of conceding an important principle: the right to advertise

products that are freely available.



The move shows that, just as with the drinks companies last year, a

voluntary code isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. But that is about

as far as the parallel goes. The drinks companies came off TV not

because of the weight of public opinion or the threat of legal action,

but because they decided they could save money that way. The tobacco

companies, by contrast, have voluntarily restrained their promotional

and advertising activities for fear of causing a huge public backlash

that would lead to an outright ban on all promotional activity.



There are two pointers that suggest Gallaher has taken a controlled

risk. First, the film itself is low-budget. Second, when Campaign rang

the Advertising Standards Authority for comment it was unable to offer

any. The reason? The ASA knew nothing about the film, which suggests

that Gallaher is hoping that, if the public doesn’t react, the ASA will

have no cause to ban the ad.



The other view is that Gallaher risks bringing the whole house of cards

down around it. Certainly, you feel that the mood of the public, and the

legislature, continues to move in favour of an outright ban.



But Gallaher may argue that it will be doing us a service if the matter

is eventually cleared up. At the very least, it has thrown down a

gauntlet to the anti-smoking lobby.



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