ADVERTISING: Tobacco companies cram in pre-ban ads

‘ ’Appiness is a cigar called ’Amlet’ and it’s available at a cinema near you.

‘ ’Appiness is a cigar called ’Amlet’ and it’s available at a cinema

near you.

Hamlet Cigars is returning to the big screen after a voluntary seven-

year absence using an old theme dressed in new packaging. The music

remains the same, but the endline drops its ‘aitches’ and centres on the

word game Hangman. The game is lost, but the victim’s suffering is

alleviated by the appearance of a Hamlet cigar.

A Gallaher spokesman dismisses, as ‘no big deal’, the company’s decision

to go back into the cinema. ‘When you get a creative idea you look to

see where you can best use it,’ he says.

Stubbing out tobacco ads

Yet Gallaher’s ambivalent attitude is not shared by all of those

monitoring tobacco advertising. Lionel Stanbrook, director of

advertising at the Advertising Association, has no doubt that tobacco

advertising will soon be stubbed out and that advertisers are making the

most of the time left to them.

‘If the Labour Party wins the General Election this year then I believe

tobacco advertising will be banned in the UK by this time next year,’ he

says. ‘And I don’t see why they [the tobacco manufacturers] shouldn’t

use what time is legally available to them.’

If this is Gallaher’s strategy, it is not alone. Rothmans UK, guardian

of big name brands Dunhill, Marlboro, Rothmans and Royals, is stepping

up its advertising spend for 1996.

‘Given that most people are aware that within two or three years

advertising will no longer be possible, people are doing significant

branding jobs within a short space of time,’ says David Gaines,

planner/buyer at agency TMD Carat.

For Rothmans this includes an initiative to broaden the appeal of the

Dunhill brand, while 1995 saw a push to make Rothmans’ King Size image

more contemporary.

At the other end of the scale, BATCo’s UK strategy toward Lucky Strikes

provides a snapshot of possible future marketing campaigns for tobacco

products. The brand, which has only been available in the UK in

specialist tobacco retailers, has been launched to the mass market in

London, using sampling and a PR campaign.

De-arming the arsenal

When tobacco advertising is outlawed, then similar below-the-line

activity will be all that remains in the tobacco marketers’ arsenal,

assuming attempts to include direct marketing in the ban prove

impossible to implement.

Meanwhile, the anti-tobacco lobby will continue to react to the ad

industry’s last-ditch branding push. Ironically, recent ‘successes’

within the boundaries of the voluntary agreement policing the industry,

have further tightened the conditions for advertisers.

In 1994 the off-the-wall humour used by Regal’s yobbish simpletons Reg

and Al led to the pair becoming cult figures among young people. And

last February, shortly after the ASA had imposed a retrospective ban on

the campaign, the terms of the voluntary code were redrawn to prohibit,

among other things, humour in tobacco advertising.

Given that the code already bans cigarette advertising targeting anyone

under 18 and any suggestion that it is healthy, attractive, safe,

relaxing or a key to social or sexual success, the ad industry has been

forced to stretch its creative powers to the utmost limits to find ways

to promote cigarette brands effectively.

This had led to imaginative, often surreal advertising that has added

credence to the tobacco manufacturers’ remaining protest against the

encroaching ban: that tobacco advertising appeals on a brand rather than

volume basis.

‘B&H, Marlboro and Silk Cut do exactly what advertising is meant to do,

appeal directly to the brand consciousness,’ says Stanbrook.

This view is supported within agencies. ‘You have to do something that

involves the people you are targeting,’ says Gaines. So hold your breath

for an impressive advertising swansong from the tobacco industry.

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