Friday, October 31, 2008

Tobacco advertising

Soviet Cigarette Packet
Hans Rudi Erdt: Problem Cigarettes, 1912 . Advertising poster
French Painted Mural Advertisment
Tobacco display in Munich
Advertisement for "Murad" Turkish cigarettes 1918
Advertisement for "Egyptian Deities" cigarettes, 1919

Tobacco advertising is the advertising of tobacco use (typically cigarette smoking) by the tobacco industry through a variety of media. The tobacco industry also commonly uses sponsorship, particularly of sporting events. It is one of the most highly-regulated forms of marketing, along with alcohol advertising. Some or all forms of tobacco advertising are banned in many countries.



Campaign intentions

Tobacco companies use such advertising to drive brand awareness and brand preference amongst smokers, in order to drive sales and to increase brand and customer loyalty. One of the original forms of this was the inclusion of cigarette cards, a collectible set of ephemera.

Target markets

The intended audience of the tobacco advertising campaigns have changed throughout the years, with some brands specifically targeted towards a particular demographic. The Joe Camel campaign in the United States was created to advertise Camel brand to young smokers. Class action plaintiffs and politicians described the Joe Camel images as a "cartoon" intended to advertise the product to people below the legal smoking age. Under pressure from various anti-smoking groups, the Federal Trade Commission, and the U.S. Congress, Camel ended the campaign on 10 July 1997.

Tobacco companies have frequently targeted the female market, seeing it as a potential growth area as the largest market segment has traditionally been male. The introduction of the 1960s Virginia Slims brand, and in particular the "You’ve Come a Long Way Baby" campaign, was specifically aimed at women.[1]


Tobacco companies have had particularly large budgets for their advertising campaigns. The Federal Trade Commission claimed that cigarette manufacturers spent $8.24 billion on advertising and promotion in 1999, the highest amount ever. The increase, despite restrictions on the advertising in most countries, was an attempt at appealing to a younger audience, including multi-purchase offers and giveaways such as hats and lighters, along with the more traditional store and magazine advertising.[1]

Marketing consultants ACNielsen announced that, during the period September 2001 to August 2002, tobacco companies advertising in the UK spent £25 million, excluding sponsorship and indirect advertising, broken down as follows:

  • £11 million on press advertising
  • £13.2 million on billboards
  • £714,550 on radio advertising
  • £106,253 on direct mail advertising

Figures from around that time also estimated that the companies spent £8m a year sponsoring sporting events and teams (excluding Formula One) and a further £70m on Formula One in the UK.[2]

Advertising around the world

Many governments now require tobacco packaging to carry health warnings

The European Union and World Health Organization (WHO) have both specified that the advertising of tobacco should not be allowed. The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which came into effect on 27 February 2005, requires that all of the 168 countries that agreed to the treaty ban tobacco advertising unless their constitution forbade it.

European Union

All tobacco advertising and sponsorship on television has been banned within the European Union since 1991 under the Television Without Frontiers Directive (1989) [3] This ban was extended by the Tobacco Advertising Directive, which took effect in July 2005 to cover other forms of media such as the internet, print media, and radio. The directive does not include advertising in cinemas and on billboards or using merchandising – or tobacco sponsorship of cultural and sporting events which are purely local, with participants coming from only one Member State[4] as these fall outside the jurisdiction of the European Commission. However, most member states have transposed the directive with national laws that are wider in scope than the directive and cover local advertising. A 2008 European Commission report concluded that the directive had been successfully transposed into national law in all EU member states, and that these laws were well implemented. [5]

In 2003, the European Union halted the branding of cigarettes as "light" or "mild", saying that this misleads consumers about the dangers of smoking. Stark health warnings such as "Smoking Kills" must now cover at least 30 percent of the front of each packet and 40 percent of the back, and an even greater area where messages are printed in more than one national language.[6]

United Kingdom

As an EU member state, the relevent EU directives banning tobacco advertising apply within the United Kingdom, in addition to UK laws restricting tobacco advertising.

The first calls to restrict advertising came in 1962 from the Royal College of Physicians, who highlighted the health problems and recommended stricter laws on the sale and advertising of tobacco products. In 1971, an agreement between the government and the tobacco industry saw the inclusion of health warnings on all cigarette packets. All television commercials for cigarettes were banned on 1 August 1965, although comercials for loose tobacco and cigars continued until 1991.

Non-television advertising campaigns were still allowed in the UK but came under stricter guidelines in 1986, which in particular, prevented adverts from actually showing a person smoking. The tobacco producers responded with increasingly indirect and abstract campaigns, among which those of Benson & Hedges and Silk Cut became particularly recognisable. Until about the mid 1990s many corner shops, newsagents and off licences had on their shop signs prominent branding by cigarette brands such as Benson & Hedges, Silk Cut, Regal etc until the practice was outlawed. The following link shows an example of this practice at a newsagents in Leeds, England from 1985:[7]

As part of their 1997 election campaign, the Labour Party pledged to ban all advertising of tobacco products. This legislation was passed as the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act 2002[8] , which banned most remaining forms of advertising according to the following timescale:

It was banned in Scotland, by the Scottish parliament in 2001. [9]

Date What was banned
14 February 2003 General advertising
14 May 2003 Promotions
30 July 2003 Sponsorship of sporting events within the UK
May 2004 Particular advertisements in tobacconists
21 December 2004 Large adverts in shops, pubs and clubs
31 July 2005 Sponsorship of excepted global events; brandsharing

Several exemptions from this legislation remain:

  • Advertisements that appear within the tobacco industry
  • Advertisements in publications that are not primarily aimed at a British audience
  • Advertisements in pubs, clubs and shops, as long as the advert's total size does not exceed that of an A5 piece of paper, with 30% of that being taken up by government health warnings.[10]
  • Advertisements other than those for cigarettes or hand-rolling tobacco within specialist tobacconists if the sale of cigars, snuff, pipe tobacco and smoking accessories accounts for over 50% of their sales
  • Direct mail that has been specifically requested

While cigarette vending machines are still allowed in licensed premises they are now only allowed to display a picture of what is available (one image per brand) and no advertisements can be included on the machine.

Famous campaigns include "You're never alone with a Strand", which led to Strand Cigarettes being taken off the market, and "Happiness is a cigar called Hamlet".

United States

In the United States, in the 1950s and 1960s, cigarette brands were frequently sponsors of television programs. One of the most famous television jingles of the era came from an advertisement for Winston cigarettes. The slogan "Winston tastes good like a cigarette should!" proved to be catchy, and is still quoted today. Another popular slogan from the 1960s was "Us Tareyton smokers would rather fight than switch!," which was used to advertise Tareyton cigarettes.

In June 1967, the Federal Communications Commission ruled that programs broadcast on a television station that discussed smoking and health were insufficient to offset the effects of paid advertisements that were broadcast for five to ten minutes each day. "We hold that the fairness doctrine is applicable to such advertisements," the Commission said. The FCC decision, upheld by the courts, essentially required television stations to air anti-smoking advertisements at no cost to the organisations providing such advertisements.

In April 1970, Congress passed the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act banning the advertising of cigarettes on television and radio starting on January 2, 1971. [2] The Virginia Slims brand was the last commercial shown, with "a 60-second revue from flapper to Female Lib", shown at 11:59 p.m. on January 1 during a break on The Tonight Show [11].

Smokeless tobacco ads, on the other hand, remained on the air until a ban took effect on August 28, 1986. [12]

After 1971, most tobacco advertising was done in magazines, newspapers and on billboards. Since the introduction of the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act all packaging and advertisements must display a health warning from the Surgeon General. In November 2003, tobacco companies and magazine publishers agreed to cease the placement of advertisements in school library editions of four magazines with a large group of young readers (Time, People, Sports Illustrated and Newsweek)[13] .

The first known advertisement was for the snuff and tobacco products of P. Lorillard and Company and was placed in the New York daily paper in 1789. Advertising was an emerging concept, and tobacco-related adverts were not seen as any different from those for other products: their negative impact on health was unknown at the time. Local and regional newspapers were used because of the small-scale production and transportation of these goods. The first real brand name to become known on a bigger scale was "Bull Durham" which emerged in 1868, with the advertising placing the emphasis on how easy it was "to roll your own"[14] .

The development of colour lithography in the late 1870s allowed the companies to create attractive images to better present their products. This led to the printing of pictures onto the cigarette cards, previously only used to stiffen the packaging but now turned into an early marketing concept.[15]

Billboards are a major venue of cigarette advertising (10% of Michigan billboards advertised alcohol and tobacco, according to the Detroit Free Press[16] ). They made the news when, in the tobacco settlement of 1999, all cigarette billboards were replaced with anti-smoking messages. In a parody of the Marlboro Man, some billboards depicted cowboys riding on ranches with slogans like "Bob, I miss my lung".

America's first regular television news program, Camel News Caravan, was sponsored by Camel Cigarettes and featured an ashtray on the desk in front of the newscaster and the Camel logo behind him. The show ran from 1949 to 1956.


In Canada, advertising of tobacco products has been prohibited by the Tobacco Products Control Act as of 1988 and all tobacco products must show attributed warning signs on all packaging. Immediately following the passing of the legislation through parliament, RJR-MacDonald (RJR-MacDonald Inc. v. Canada (Attorney General)) filed suit against the Government of Canada through the Quebec Superior Court. It was argued that the act, which originally called for unattributed warnings, was a violation of the right to free speech. In 1991, the Quebec Superior Court ruled in favour of the tobacco companies, deciding that the act violated their right to free speech under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as well as being ultra vires. The Crown subsequently appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.

On September 21st, 1995 the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the Tobacco Products Control Act as legal, forcing the tobacco companies operating in Canada to print hazard warnings on all cigarette packs. However, the Court struck down the requirement that the health warnings be unattributed, as this requirement violated the right to free speech, further ruling that it was in the federal government's jurisdiction to pass such laws, as it fell under the peace, order and good government clause. Recently, sin taxes have been added to tobacco products, with the objective of decreasing usage by making the products less affordable. Currently, radio ads, television commercials, event sponsoring, promotional giveaways and other types of brand advertising are prohibited as well as in-store product displays.

Until 2003, tobacco manufacturers got around this restriction by sponsoring cultural and sporting events, such as the Benson and Hedges Symphony of Fire (a fireworks display in Toronto and Vancouver), which allowed the manufacturers' names and logos to appear in advertisements sponsoring the events, and at the venues. The ban on tobacco sponsorship was a major factor that led to the near-cancellation of the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal and the du Maurier Ltd Classic, a women's golf tournament on the LPGA tour (now known as the Canadian Women's Open).

In May 2008, retail displays of cigarettes in convenience stores in Ontario and Quebec have been outlawed. They are now all hidden.

[edit] Australia

The Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Act 1992 expressly prohibited almost all forms of Tobacco advertising in Australia, including the sponsorship of sporting or other cultural events by cigarette brands. Domestic sporting and cultural events were allowed to have sponsorships run their course, but were no longer allowed to enter into new or to continue existing sponsorships. By 1998, all domestic sponsorships had expired naturally.

The Federal Minister for Health and Ageing was given the right to grant exemptions to events "of international significance" that "would be likely to result in the event not being held in Australia" should tobacco advertising be forbidden. A clause in the act forbade events applying for an exemption after 1 October 2000, unless they had previously been granted one. By 2006, this had led to only two events being eligible - the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix and the Australian Formula One Grand Prix. A further clause removed the Ministers right to grant any exemptions for any event held after 1 October 2006. The Australian Formula One Grand Prix 2007 therefore featured no tobacco advertising of any sort.

New Zealand

Tobacco advertising in New Zealand was outlawed with the passage of the Smokefree Amendment Act 1990.

Prior to this, in 1963 advertisements for tobacco products were withdrawn from radio and television. A decade later in 1973, cigarette advertising was banned on billboards and in cinemas, and print media advertising was restricted to half a newspaper page.

In 1995 all remaining tobacco advertising and sponsorship was banned except for point-of-sale advertising and some tobacco sponsorship exemptions. Point-of-sale advertising ceased on 11 December 1998.

Upon point-of-sale advertising being finally banned in New Zealand there are other examples of tobacco advertising that will still remain. These include the use of tobacco packets as advertisements, exempted tobacco sponsorships, tobacco advertising and sponsorship in imported magazines and on cable television as well as the usual tobacco imagery in movies and television.

Also health warnings are placed on all tobacco products.


In Malaysia, the displaying of cigarette packets in advertisements has been banned since 1 January 1995. However, this has not stopped tobacco companies from advertising their products. They have found ways to continue to build their brands by using brand names for a bistro and cybercafes such as Benson & Hedges Bistro and Sampoerna A International Cyberworld, for stationery, accessories, clothing like Dunhill, Marlboro Classics, Davidoff, Pall Mall, John Player Specials, Winfield and Winston. Holiday tours like Mild Seven Seafarers Club, Peter Stuyvesant Travel and Tours, Kent Holidays and Salem Holidays and even in the sponsorship of concerts and entertainment events. All of these are indirect advertising strategies employed by tobacco companies.

Starting from 1 January 2003, the Malaysian federal government has even banned such indirect advertising of tobacco brands, except in certain establishments licensed to sell tobacco products. Formula One Grand Prix' and other sporting events are still allowed to use tobacco sponsorship.

They also have banned sale of tabacco to underage people in an effort of cracking down on early age smoking.

Hong Kong

Tobacco advertising in Hong Kong for television was outlawed at the beginning of 1992. However, buses and notably trams never took off their tobacco advertising until a few years later. Kent, Marlboro, Double Happiness, and Camel all featured prominently on them.[citation needed]

South Africa

The Tobacco Products Control Amendment Act was passed in 1999. This act bans all advertising and promotion of tobacco products, including sponsorship and free distribution of tobacco products.

Anti-smoking advertising

Anti-smoking groups, particularly cancer charities, along with many government health departments have attempted to counter the advertising of tobacco by creating their own advertisements to highlight the negative effects of smoking. The earliest commercials mainly focused on aiding smoking cessation, the increased risk of lung cancer and the problems associated with passive smoking. However, they have become increasingly hard-hitting over the years, with some campaigns now centred around decreased physical attractiveness[17] and the risk of erectile dysfunction[18]. These are more targeted towards younger smokers than previous campaigns. The British government spent £31 million in 2003 as part of their anti-smoking campaign[19].

In 2005 the European Union launched the "For a life without tobacco" campaign in all its constituent countries to help people quit smoking[20].

In 2007 and 2008, the New York City Department of Health launched a series of anti-tobacco ad campaigns to promote the city's Quitline and a free nicotine patch and gum program. The first TV spots, "Smoking is Eating You Alive" and "Smoking is Eating You and Your Kids Alive," depict the damage smoking can do to the body. The ads were noted for their graphic nature [21] as well as their effectiveness. The second series of ads launched April 16, 2008.[22] In these, a 58-year-old woman and longtime smoker called "Marie" describes the amputations and pain she has undergone since developing Buerger's Disease, a condition that limits blood flow through the arteries and which was tied to her smoking habit. [23]

The Marlboro Man was one of the most successful cigarette advertising campaigns, lasting from the 1960s to the 1990s. The Marlboro brand was promoted by various cowboys, with Wayne McLaren posing for some promotional photographs in 1976. He died of lung cancer in 1992, having appeared in a television spot showing him in a hospital bed. That image was juxtaposed with him during the promotional shoot, with a voiceover warning about the dangers of smoking[24].

Sponsorship in sport

Formula One

Marlboro continues to sponsor Ferrari (photo from 2006 Bahrain Grand Prix)

Ever since the first appearance of the Red, Gold and White colors of the Imperial Tobacco's Gold Leaf brand sponsorship livery in 1968, teams, drivers and circuits of Formula One (F1) have become heavily dependent on the financial backing of their sponsors and for many decades the tobacco industry played the major role in sponsoring the sport. In 1976, Germany began the trend in outlawing tobacco sponsorships in motor races, then it was followed by United Kingdom in 1984, starting with major races and the rest in later years and in 1992 in France. As anti-smoking legislation began to tighten in many parts of the world F1 became an even more important opportunity for cigarette brand promotion. The negotiating skills of the F1 leadership (especially Bernie Ecclestone) were such that in many jurisdictions F1 achieved some exemptions from the rules. However there is now a blanket ban on advertising in Europe, and the cars are not allowed to show any links with the tobacco companies and increasingly, the teams are breaking their dependence on tobacco sponsorship. In 2000, WilliamsF1 became the first major team to run without tobacco sponsorship, and McLaren have now replaced the West brand and no longer have any tobacco sponsors. Renault ended the deal with Mild Seven after the 2006 season. Ferrari on the other hand renewed their arrangements with Philip Morris in 2005 .

At the 2007 Bahrain, Monaco and Chinese Grands Prix, Altria Group's Marlboro brand was prominently on display on the Ferrari cars of Felipe Massa and Kimi Räikkönen, on their jumpsuits and also those of the pit crew. Ferrari was the only team that was still promoting a cigarette brand in the 2007 Formula One season. Since the start of the 2008 season, Ferrari has no longer carried Marlboro logos at any races, even those at which tobacco advertising is allowed. It is therefore unlikely that any F1 car will ever directly advertise tobacco again.


The NASCAR Championship, now associated with Sprint, was sponsored by R.J. Reynolds until 2003 when Reynolds announced they were unable to continue the sponsorship.

NASCAR's top series found sponsorship from R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company (RJR) in the early 1970s following the U.S. ban on television advertising of cigarettes. The "Winston Cup" became the top competitive series, and later, some other regional series under NASCAR were also sponsored by the tobacco company (for example, the "Winston West" series). In the mid-1970s, some races began to get partial television coverage, frequently on the ABC sports variety show, Wide World of Sports. While Winston was not able to do commercial advertisements, their name was all over television during races. Over the many years of their relationship with NASCAR, Winston sponsored several races and prize programs including the Winston 500, The Winston all-star race, the Winston Western 500 and the 1985–1997 Winston Million, which awarded a million dollars to a driver who could win a "small slam" of the sport's four Grand Slam events in the same year. From 1998 to 2002, the Winston No Bull 5, a more complex award system, was used. Each year, there were five races (initially the four majors and Indianapolis) selected to be a part of this promotion. Each driver who finished in the top 5 in the previous No Bull 5 race was eligible to win in the next race selected, along with a fan. If one of the eligible drivers won that race, they were awarded with a million dollar bonus.

In addition, many other race teams had some tobacco-related advertising, including an RJR-sponsored car driven by Jimmy Spencer.

On February 5, 2003, R. J. Reynolds informed NASCAR that their five-year extension to sponsor NASCAR's premier division signed in July 2002 could be dissolved because of economic concerns at the company, in what turned out to be one of two major sponsorship losses at the sanctioning body. Earlier in the year, ConocoPhillips, which made the 76 brand of fuel, announced it would withdraw from NASCAR at the end of the 2003 season.

That allowed NASCAR to free itself of Reynolds if they wanted, and on June 19, 2003, NASCAR announced at the NASDAQ MarketSite a new ten-year deal with Nextel Communications starting in the 2004 season, as the familiar red was replaced with Nextel yellow (Nextel's new colours were announced after the deal had been signed), and starting in September 2005, NASCAR began replacing Nextel logos with Sprint logos started appearing in reference to the new sponsor.

One major change NASCAR was able to market with Nextel was the series advertising banners. Whereas in the past, Winston signs could only state "Winston", "Winston Cup Series", or later "NASCAR Winston Cup Series", with some early era Victory Lane banners stating "The Taste of Victory", Nextel was able to use advertising to market itself better, which included "Speed Meets Speed", "The Car Phone Reborn", and "Finish Faster" positioned next to the Nextel Cup logo. When the advertising was rebranded with the Sprint banner, the Turn 11 bridge at Watkins Glen International was rebranded, with new Sprint advertising featuring the tagline "Sprint ahead".


Smaller tobacco companies not covered by the Master Settlement Agreement have attempted sponsorship for portions of the season or circuits. Bailey's, a small tobacco company based in Virginia, featured in 2005 sponsorship of selected races for the Bobby Hamilton Racing team based in Tennessee, and has been the longtime sponsor of the Bailey's 300 at Martinsville Speedway for late model race cars in the region which race at NASCAR-sanctioned tracks. Drivers in that race have advanced to NASCAR's three national series, with Denny Hamlin having participated in the race.

In 2005, GlaxoSmithKline, manufacturer of Goody's Headache Powder, a NASCAR sponsor since 1977, expanded their long-term sponsorship by adding their Nicorette brand of smoking cessation product as a NASCAR official sponsor, and signed with Chip Ganassi Racing and also longtime Goody's Headache Powder (another GSK brand) spokesman and former smoker, Richard Petty would lead their "Commit to Quit" program.

GSK changed its marketing program in 2006, moving to other brands with Ganassi Racing, while Jeff Gordon became GSK's Nicorette leader, with a Nicorette car for two races.

GSK withdrew the Goody's Headache Powders affiliation with NASCAR at the end of the 2006 season because NASCAR wanted a more "national" brand of pain reliever (that status went to Johnson & Johnson). This made Nicorette GSK's exclusive brand with NASCAR, and they expanded their sponsorship with Gordon, fielding a Nicorette car for more races, including one race where the Nicorette colors promoted a different flavour of Nicorette. GSK sponsorship in NASCAR includes the Nicorette Chevrolet of Gordon in selected races, the Nicorette 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race, and both Sprint Cup races at Martinsville Speedway, known as the Goody's Cool Orange 500 and Tums QuikPak 500.


Snooker was badly hit by the British ban on tobacco sponsorship, with several tournaments losing their financial backers. These included:

The World Snooker Championship was given special dispensation from the European Union directive until 2005. The Masters went without any sponsorship in 2004, before receiving the backing of Rileys Club the following year. Some players spoke out against the ban, worried that the game would not be able to survive without the financial backing of the tobacco companies[25] [26].

Other sports

Various sports have relied on sponsorship money from tobacco companies, both for the participants and for competitions.

Trends in tobacco promotion

With the restrictions placed on general advertising, tobacco companies have moved to new promotions to establish new customers and maintain existing ones. For example Altira has a strategy of growth by promotions that build brand equity through adult consumer experiences[28] . The intent is to reinforce brand loyalty by building consumer communities.

One example is Marlboro's Outwit the West, a 'by-invitation if you're a smoker' 4-member team-based 'competition' with a series of cryptic brain teasers. The top 20 teams get invited to the Marlboro ranch, a location where it's 'okay to smoke' and food, drinks and activities are paid for by the company. The team with the most correct answers shares a one million dollar prize. Thousands of teams participate.

More generally, Marlboro has been using its mailing database (estimated at 26 million in 2005[29] ) to promote directly with giveaways and general invitations to the Marlboro Ranch (these include a $900 payment to offset fringe benefits tax). Reinforcement is provided by branded products and by peers.

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