Cigarette Marketing Up in Smoke: and the Tobacco Companies Fight Back

October 11, 2011

For the first time in the history of marketing, a company that sells a legal item is being forced to package and sell it’s own product in the most negative way possible: starting in September 2012, cigarette packs will be required to contain a rotating series of grisly images depicting the health hazards and possible results of smoking. The FDA is ordering the new packaging as a way to call fresh attention to a message that has gone stale: that smoking is exceedingly bad for your health.

The full color images must take up 50% of the package, on both the front and back, and 20% of all advertising. Up until now, the anti-smoking message has come in the form of text only, the familiar Surgeon General’s Warning. But knowing how much more effective graphics can be than words, the new images’ shock value will be impossible to ignore. It’s hard to imagine how an effective media campaign can be put together when the product itself has become a liability. How will a print campaign work without showing the package? How can any other image you show overcome the overpowering negativity of the graphic warning? This is probably the greatest challenge that an advertising/marketing firm has had to deal with.

In response to this new law, the tobacco companies are suing the federal government, questioning the legality of the order, and protesting the amount of money this will cost them to implement. According to a story by CBS News: “The companies also said the new labels will cost them millions of dollars for new equipment so they can frequently change from warning to warning and designers to make sure the labels meet federal requirements while maintaining some distinction among brands.”

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