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U. S. cigarette promotion since the broadcast media ban

Current creative approaches
Last month's issue discussed how the U. S. cigarette companies were spending the money which used (prior to the ban which took effect with the beginning of the year) to be channeled into television and radio. This month we take a look at the effect the ban has had on the creative approaches used for U. S. cigarette advertising which, as last month's article stated, now majors on magazines as a base medium. Time was when U. S. cigarette advertising was as uninhibited as advertising could well being. As filters increased their market share, so cigarette advertising took to "filters best" types of copy approach, with overt (or at least implicit) health claims. With increasing pressures, such claims had to end. With only marginal physical differences between brands, and consequently few logical or factual reasons which could be used to extol one brand over its competitors, emotional advertising appeals became more important.
 The broadcast media - particularly television - provided creative advertising people with an ideal tool for projecting emotional appeals. Philip Morris used television to build up the relaxed, masculine, dependable "Marlboro Country" image. Brown & Williamson's KOOL majored on very competently projected "slice of life" commercials showing smokers dissatisfied with their own brands, and finding in KOOL what these lacked. In a striking humorous campaign, spearheaded in television, ads for BENSON & HEDGES 100s showed the disadvantages of smoking a longer cigarette: smokers in the commercials got their extra-long cigarettes caught in closing lift doors, set beards alight with them, burned holes in their newspapers. The advantages were allowed to get across in an understated and disarming way.
 Television presented its users with its limitless range of visual techniques - from animation and titling to live action, from slow motion to quick-cut editing - and the broadcast media had the big advantage too of using the emotive power of music. This ranged from a number of jingles, some of which have become extremely well-known (like the "You've come a long way, baby" commercials for VIRGINIA SLIMS, and the "Winston taste good" ads) to "theme music" of which that for MARLBORO is perhaps the outstanding example.
Brown & Williamson believe that the quality of broadcast commercials was directly responsible for increasing or decreasing brand shares. Now television and radio are out, and with them has gone the scope of all the moving-visual and sound techniques. Today's media are visual only, and static at that. The audiences are no longer captive. The cigarette advertisers are back in the days when print provided the main media, but their audiences live in the television age: no small problem. What are they doing now in creative terms? Brown & Williamson identify three basic approaches which the cigarette companies are using to get over the problem of creating brand distinction in this situation:

1. Reflecting the previous TV approach
 While the TV ads have stopped, their residual effect continues. So that advertising for a number of brands goes on projecting, as far as techniques will allow, the television approach which had been used. BENSON & HEDGES 100s, for example still puts over the "disadvantages" angle in ads which rely on pure visual appeal. MARLBORO continues to get mileage out of "Marlboro Country", an image which works about as well in print as on the screen, and which is now so strongly entrenched that there is no need to show much more than the pack with a typical Western picture.
2. Showing the pack big and bold
 Some advertisers have fallen back on pack-reminder approaches, with little attempt to use either emotional appeal or some special technique to give the brand a special identity. American Brands could be said to lead this tendency showing its packs with only minor copy emphasis and virtually no other additional visual features.
3. Campaigns created for print media
 The third approach is to create advertising specifically for the print media, attempting to capture a feeling or emotion from a still picture or graphic design. Most notable among these is WINSTON'S nostalgic "Down home flavor" advertising distinctly different from what came before, but still geared to tell a taste story. Though created for print, the "Down home" campaign could well have made a telling television impact.
 So far, of course, it is impossible to judge the relative success of these approaches. Brown & Williamson believe that those campaigns that derive their strength only from the past remembrance of television commercials must gradually lose that strength as memory fades. On the other hand some of these ex-TV campaigns could prove to be just as effective for the print media. A winning advertising theme or concept should not lose its worth because some media are removed, unless its nature is intrinsically dependent on the use of movement and/or sound. The campaign for "Marlboro Country" looks as if it could go on projecting its image with success even when the TV commercials have been forgotten.


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