One hesitates to suggest that big, respected companies must be
trying to curry favour with consumers by adopting a socially responsible
tone, but that is the only logical explanation that I can find for two
The first, for BT Cellnet, has been adapted from work by a Toronto
agency by Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO. As the industry’s first public
information campaign, it takes the unusual step of telling customers to
switch off their phones in cinemas, theatres, restaurants and meetings.
All right, at pounds 150,000 it’s a snip of a campaign, the real value
of which will derive from the spin-off PR, but what it boils down to is
agency and client doing what they do best - finding a way of encouraging
the audience to see the advertiser in the the best possible light.
And then there’s the PR-driven campaign to discourage under-age smoking
by the worldwide tobacco industry (Campaign, last week). Philip Morris,
the lead player, has already tested a dollars 100 million youth
anti-smoking campaign in the US with public information-style ads
created by Leo Burnett.
I’d guess the strategy will be based on three things: the view that peer
pressure, not advertising, is the cause of youth smoking; seizing the
political centre and forcing the antis to take extreme positions;
aligning the industry with a sophisticated view of the problem,
specifically, parental inability to offset peer pressure. Tactically,
that could mean anything from advertising, to retailer and in-store
communication, to the use of knowledgeable media ’experts’.
The fact is that as long as tobacco can be legally sold, the industry
has every right to create anti-smoking campaigns. It’s not the exclusive
domain of anti-smoking advocates, nor of governments. Freedom of
expression and approach for advertisers is a basic economic right, after
But is it really true that tobacco manufacturers want to prevent
teenagers smoking out of concern for their health? Or, for that matter,
that the drinks industry would have moved to control the marketing
excesses of alcopop manufacturers for any other reason than escaping
Or that either industry would have lifted a finger had the argument been
running in their favour, rather than away from them? No, because
consumers’ experience of all advertised products tells them it’s not
like that and indeed life’s not like that.
Anti-smoking campaigners have argued convincingly that it is morally
indefensible to promote a substance to adolescents as sophisticated that
is in reality associated with disease and premature death. That’s why
the tobacco industry is being dressed up as a responsible citizen and
the advertising industry - the creator of successful campaigns, first
for Benson & Hedges, later for Silk Cut, that were a direct reaction to
legal restrictions - has been invited to help with the zip.