Tobacco companies against advertising bans

Because advertising is so critical to the continued expansion of the tobacco industry, the companies have fought attempts to restrict or ban advertising with every means at their disposal:

“A law prohibiting tobacco advertising was passed in Ecuador, but, after a mobilization of journalists from throughout Latin America and numerous international organizations, it was vetoed by the President.”

“….Additional legislation to ban tobacco advertising is pending in Costa Rica, but we believe this too will be defeated. We are now able, however, to sponsor sporting events. We have received the tacit approval of the Costa Rican government and are at present sponsoring several events.”

“….In Venezuela, we were successful in stopping a detrimental, self-regulating advertising code, and are now negotiating a new one. Our work in Senegal resulted in a new advertising decree which reversed a total advertising ban.” (Philip Morris, 1989)

The companies use their political connections to fight advertising bans:

“Through the Pan-Arab Media Association we are lobbying Tihama (the principal publishing house and ad agency in SA [Saudi Arabia]) to resist the ad ban proposal. We are using the contacts of Surrey/Morse to communicate PM messages to their SA friends and to special US government contacts based in SA.” (Philip Morris, 1985)

When faced with pressure, the companies often offer to implement half-measures and voluntary codes:

“ …by opening a dialogue followed by a few minor concessions, the industry can be saved from heavy legislation for at least two to three more years.” (Philip Morris, 1976)

“An industry code will be written [for Pakistan]…so that it can be used as both a lobbying lever and an argument against not introducing formal legislation.” (Philip Morris, 1994)

“…[C]omplete the removal of roadside cigarette hoardings [billboards] on the Dubai-Abu Dhabi road and capitalise on this minimum concession as an example of voluntary self-regulation by the Industry.” (Philip Morris, 1992)

Over the past two decades, the companies have responded to increasing restrictions on tobacco advertising by engaging in “brand-stretching”:

“Opportunities should be explored by all companies so as to find non-tobacco products and other services which can be used to communicate the brand or house name, together with their essential visual identities. This is likely to be a long-term and costly operation, but the principle is nevertheless to ensure that cigarette lines can be effectively publicised when all direct forms of communication are denied.” (BAT, 1979)

BAT has contemplated exploring

“…the opportunities to cooperate with one another by beaming TV and radio advertising into a banned country.” (BAT, 1979)

Meanwhile, in Lebanon, Philip Morris has planned some novel ways to advertise Marlboro:

“Marlboro Tunnel Entrance Branding: Placement of Marlboro branding at the entrance of two major tunnels with ‘Drive Safely’ statements. Tunnel’s illumination system to be provided by PM [Philip Morris] in return for the placement of previously mentioned (sic) signs.

Marlboro Pedestrian Bridge Branding: Refurbishment of 5 pedestrian bridges within the Greater Beirut area in return for which MARLBORO branded signs would be placed with ‘Walk Safely’ statements. … Marlboro ‘Promenade’ Benches: Placement of Marlboro branded benches on the most famous Beirut seaside promenade. … Marlboro Road Signs: Placement of street signs in the Greater Beirut area in the major highways leading to key/central locations. Signs to also feature Marlboro branding.”

Under the heading “Diversification Program,” the company proposes to:

“Study the introduction of the Marlboro classics clothing line to Lebanon. This comes at a time when anti-smoking campaigns and activities are increasingly implemented.” (Philip Morris, 1993)

Tobacco advertising and motorsport…

Motor racing has been another key area for tobacco company sponsorships. The stated objective of the 1990 “Marlboro Superbike Show” in Taiwan was

“…to strengthen Marlboro’s brand image in relation with excitement, vitality and masculinity, especially among young adult consumers.” (Philip Morris, 1990)

“In Malaysia, local advertising restrictions prevent the effective use of the American cowboy in broadcast media. So, we have decided to utilize the Marlboro world of sports as an advertising vehicle in TV, outdoor and newspapers to build Marlboro’s image around its international motorsports involvement…” (Philip Morris, 1990)

Barrie Gill, chief executive of Championship Sports Specialists Ltd., a sports sponsorship company, explains why tobacco companies are so interested in motor racing:

“It’s the ideal sport for sponsorship. It’s got glamour and worldwide television coverage. It’s a 10- month activity involving 16 races in 14 countries with drivers from 16 nationalities. After football it’s the Number One multinational sport. It’s got total global exposure, total global hospitality, total media coverage and 600 million people watching it on TV every fortnight.…It’s macho, it’s excitement, it’s colour, it’s international, it’s glamour.…They’re there to get visibility. They’re there to sell cigarettes.” (1984)

An R.J. Reynolds document supports this view:

“Malaysia, Key Camel Issue 1989: Seed the brand with images of the contemporaneity, glamour and excitement of Formula One – motor racing.” (RJ Reynolds, 1989)

The tobacco companies also sponsor sporting federations when it suits their interests:

“To improve our sports allies we sponsored the Asia Pacific and Oceana Sports Assembly, and have since established a relationship with its president to review opportunities for sponsorship and to identify key sporting contacts by country. Recently this association provided access to Korea’s peak sporting associations.” (Philip Morris, 1989)

In addition to heavy sponsorship of sporting events and teams, the industry has other avenues for attracting young people:

“While sports is by far the best avenue to attract, sample and influence our core target smokers, it’s not the only way. International movies and videos also have tremendous appeal to our young adult consumers in Asia.” (Philip Morris, 1990)

“[In Switzerland] Music is the second of our targeted promotional themes and Marlboro is involved in a big way….The real benefit of the concept is the quality of the personal contact which ensures that Marlboro and music are firmly linked in our target group’s mind.” (Philip Morris, 1990)

“Each region conducted literally hundreds of local and regional promotions which ranged from art and music to academic awards and competitions. They are far too numerous to mention here. Most notable among the transnational promotions was the Philip Morris Superband of jazz musicians who performed in Australia, the Philippines, Japan and Canada, and a special Marlboro Superband that performed in four cities in Spain. The Superbands received exceptional media coverage in each market, including television and radio ‘specials’ in Australia, Japan and Spain.” (Philip Morris, 1986)

Rockers defy smoking ban

Ronnie Woods and Kieth Richards, proper rockers from the rolling stones defied the UK’s new anti-smoking laws by lighting up on stage during their concert at the 02 Arena (Millenium Dome) in London’s East End.

Fans cheered as the rock legend Keith Richards smoked through a 5 minute solo.

Greenwich Council say they plan to make an example of the arena’s owners AEG, who now face a possible £ 2,500 fine.

A spokesman for Anti-smoking group ASH lambasted Richards, saying: ‘Unless Keith Richards is going to claim that smoking is an integral part of his performance, he has no defence.’

It’s not the first time Richards has dodged punishment for smoking on stage, after he flicked buts into the crowd in Scotland’s Hampton Park last year. Glasgow Council did fine him either.

An O2 spokesman said: ‘A band member appeared to have a cigarette on stage. We’re sure it was an oversight and are grateful for the co-operation.

The Stones were kicking off the first UK leg to end their A Bigger Bang tour.

Tobacco companies and advertising

The tobacco industry has always maintained that the only function of advertising is to persuade smokers to switch between brands and that advertising does not effect overall consumption. Clive Turner from the Tobacco Advisory Council reiterates the industry line:

“Certainly no tobacco advertising is concerned with encouraging nonsmokers to start or existing smokers to smoke more and it seems blindingly obvious that, unless you are a smoker, tobacco advertising or sponsorship has absolutely no influence whatsoever in persuading or motivating a purchase.” (1986)

But according to advertising executive Emerson Foote, former CEO of McCann-Erickson, which has handled millions of dollars in tobacco industry accounts:

“The cigarette industry has been artfully maintaining that cigarette advertising has nothing to do with total sales. This is complete and utter nonsense. The industry knows it is nonsense. I am always amused by the suggestion that advertising, a function that has been shown to increase consumption of virtually every other product, somehow miraculously fails to work for tobacco products.” (1988)

Inadvertently supporting this view is Gareth Davies, chief executive of Imperial Tobacco, who while commenting on a proposed advertising ban in the United Kingdom said:

“Obviously I am very much against anything that tries to reduce consumption of a legal product that is used by adults.” (1997)

In fact, the industry is terrified of not being able to advertise. According to Philip Morris:

“Advertising is critical to our ability to expand the geographical presence of our brands and sustain their premium image.” (Philip Morris, 1993)

A Philip Morris document from 1990 discusses the dangers facing the industry:

“The pressure against us is growing at a frightening speed….It’s quite possible that unless we change our whole approach very quickly, and start using our resources in a much more intelligent fashion, we will find that within 12 months we could well lose our advertising and sponsorship, and a good deal of our marketing, freedoms in most of our major markets. … Defeat, like fear, is contagious. Once people sense surrender is in the air, the collapse of the whole operation can come with enormous rapidity. The collapse of South Vietnam is a graphic case in point.”

The document suggests a “plan of action for winning this war,” including:

“Go on the offensive through imaginative advocacy advertising campaigns, using leading figures around the world who will put the best arguments on a range of issues. … Fortify and widen the range of coalitions to oppose both advertising and sponsorship bans.”

The reason why advertising is so important is that

“If one takes the pessimistic view of present trends, the tobacco industry could lose almost all its political clout within two years. Overstated? Not really. If you take away our advertising and sponsorship, you lose most, if not all, of your media and political allies. … We could well be in this position within two years, or even less, if the pace of present restrictions worldwide continues. It doesn’t take much imagination to see what this would mean for our share price, not to mention our reputation.…Compared to the billions we could lose, our present commitment to recovering both commercial, political and, not least, moral ground is, to put it baldly, pitiful. The time to get on top of this deteriorating situation is now.” (Philip Morris, 1990)

Fritz Gahagan, who once worked as a marketing consultant for the tobacco industry, offers some insight into how the tobacco industry has dealt with one of its most intractable dilemmas:

“The problem is, how do you sell death? How do you sell a poison that kills 350,000 people per year, a 1,000 people a day? You do it with the great open spaces…the mountains, the open places, the lakes coming up to the shore. They do it with healthy young people. They do it with athletes. How could a whiff of a cigarette be of any harm in a situation like that? It couldn’t be—there’s too much fresh air, too much health—too much absolute exuding of youth and vitality—that’s the way they do it.”

Most tobacco advertisements have absolutely nothing to do with cigarettes, as these creative guidelines for Marlboro, the world’s best-selling brand, demonstrate:

The tobacco industry has always maintained that the only function of advertising is to persuade smokers to switch between brands and that advertising does not effect overall consumption. Clive Turner from the Tobacco Advisory Council reiterates the “Every Marlboro ad needs to be judged on the following criteria: story value, authenticity, masculinity, while communicating those enduring core values of freedom, limitless opportunities, self-sufficiency, mastery of destiny and harmony with nature.” (Philip Morris, undated)

Sports sponsorship has proven to be a useful tool for the tobacco industry’s attempt to associate smoking with health and athletic prowess. As one R.J. Reynolds executive put it:

“We’re in the cigarette business. We’re not in the sports business. We use sports as an avenue for advertising our products.…We can go into an area where we’re marketing an event, measure sales during the event and measure sales after the event, and see an increase in sales.” (1989)

Around the world, the tobacco companies sponsor sporting events and teams:

“The Marlboro soccer cup in Hong Kong and China, World Cup tie-ins and the inaugural Marlboro dynasty cup are excellent examples of how we associate Marlboro with Asia’s favorite sport and position Marlboro as the principal contributor to football development in Asia.” (Philip Morris, 1990)

They also have proven extremely clever in finding ways around legal restrictions:

“The other major promotion in Turkey was centered around the World Cup. Football is by far the leading sport in Turkey, and the World Cup provided an opportunity too good to miss. However, due to copyright and legal issues, Marlboro could not be involved in a World Cup promotion. So we turned to a publisher to get around the problem. … The idea this time was to…produce a quality 36-page World Cup Guide created by the paper and sponsored by Marlboro. This approach avoided legal problems but still achieved our objective of linking the brand to the World Cup….In order to whet the appetite of the public and create word-of-mouth publicity, the PM [Philip Morris] promoters carried out a drive, distributing 10,000 copies of the guide in front of stadiums at major soccer games and in pubs and cafes against the showing of a Marlboro pack.” (Philip Morris, 1990)

The World Cup tie-in has been extended to other places as well:

“As in Turkey, football is the most keenly followed sport in the Middle East. So we linked up with a leading Kuwaitisports magazine, Al-Riaydhi, to produce a quality World Cup guide—a 30-page special supplement aimed at young adult Arabs, with a promotion contained in it. Top prizes were VIP trips to the World Cup in Italy, with runner-up prizes of latest model large screen TV’s. … The look of the guide was colourful and pictorial, with Marlboro branding on each spread. And in the center was a prestigious 6-page promotional ad, appealing to Arab patriotism. … A total of 260,000 copies of the guide were produced, making it the largest print run for a magazine in the Middle East.”(Philip Morris, 1990)

Tomorrow, I am going to look at the relationship between tobacco advertising and its biggest advertising space, motorsport.