Friday, 24 August 2018

Big Tobacco’s Global Reach on Social Media

Big Tobacco’s

Big Tobacco’s Global Reach on Social Media

It’s been years since the industry promised to prevent luring children to smoke cigarettes.

Philip Morris International says it's “designing a smoke-free future.”

British American Tobacco, likewise, claims to be “transforming tobacco” into a safer product.

But while the Food and Drug Administration weighs plans to chop nicotine in cigarettes, making them less addictive, Big Tobacco has been making the foremost of the time it still has used social networks to market its brands around the world.

Most countries, just like us, imposed rules back within the 1970s against marketing tobacco to youths; many have banned cigarette commercials on television and radio.

So the industry that brought the planet the Marlboro Man, Joe Camel and slogans like “Reach for a Lucky rather than a Sweet” has latched onto the selfie generation’s screens during a highly adaptive way that skirts the advertising rules of old.

“What they're doing maybe a really effective thanks to getting around existing laws to limit advertising to children,” said Robert V. Kozinets, a PR professor at the University of Southern California, who led a world team of researchers examining the tobacco industry’s use of social media.

“The most surprising thing to me was the extent of sophistication of those different global networks. You get incredible campaigns, the likes of which I’ve never seen before.”

International public health organizations are pushing back against tobacco companies around the world.

Earlier this month, Bloomberg Philanthropies chose three international research centers to steer a replacement $20 million global tobacco watchdog group called Stop (Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products), with partners within the UK, Thailand and France, which will partly specialize in social marketing.

Dr. Kozinets’s work, purchased by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, an advocacy group, analyzed social media in 10 countries by trying to find hashtags that hook up with tobacco cigarette brands.

By promising anonymity, Dr. Kozinets’s researchers were ready to interview paid and unpaid “ambassadors” and “micro-influencers” to reveal the connection between the tobacco companies, their communications agencies and social media posts on Instagram and Facebook.

The results of this study, alongside research during a total of 40 countries, led the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Lung Association, and other public health groups to file a petition on Friday with the Federal Trade Commission against four tobacco companies.

The petition claims that Philip Morris International, British American Tobacco, Japan Tobacco International, and Imperial Brands are targeting young American consumers with deceptive social media marketing in violation of federal law.

The petition calls on the F.T.C. to prevent the practices.

Several of the tobacco companies didn't immediately answer requests to discuss the petition.

A spokesman for Philip Morris International said on Friday afternoon that the corporate had yet to review the documents and thus couldn't comment.

According to Caroline Renzulli, who oversaw the project for the campaign, 123 hashtags related to these companies’ tobacco products are viewed 8.8 billion times within us alone and 25 billion times around the world.

Representatives of a number of the businesses said they the market only to adult smokers and suits the laws of nations where they sell their products.

Jonathan Duce, a spokesman for Japan Tobacco, said company-involved events were intended “to switch existing adult smokers to our brands from those of our competitors.”

“If smokers or vapers prefer to share their group action,” he added, “it is totally their choice.”

Simon Evans, a spokesman for Imperial Brands, acknowledged that the corporate paid “public opinion formers” to attend and post social media content about promotional events.

“Where this is often the case, however, we make it clear to them they're to not post branded content,” Mr. Evans said.

Some posts use hashtags that are closely connected to the brands: #lus or #likeus for Lucky Strikes, for instance.

Other posts are more subtle, featuring cigarettes but no name, or appealing hashtags that signal autonomy or independence: #YouDecide, #DecideTonight and #RedIsHere are popular ones affiliated with Marlboro as is #FreedomMusic for Winston.

Sometimes the posts omit the cigarettes altogether but mention upcoming parties and other events where cigarettes are promoted in giant displays and given away.

The party décor colors often match those of a selected brand.

The image below is from Indonesia, where a pack of Dunhill cigarettes may be a subtle prop. After a press inquiry, BAT said they might take down the post.

Lucky Strike ambassadors received these instructions last year in Italy, consistent with Dr. Kozinets, and that they included a note to hide up images “required to get on the packages by law”(presumably the warning labels).

In an email, Simon Cleverly, an executive with British American Tobacco, said the company’s team in Italy was reviewing the above documents, which researchers translated into English. the likes of Us campaign ran from 2012 through 2017, he said.

Some themes repeated in several countries were British American Tobacco’s #TasteTheCity, which promoted Dunhill and Kent brands, and Philip Morris International’s #Newland and #Neuland, and #IDecideTo/#YouDecide.

Bruno Nastari, a Brazilian business strategist, spent quite three years working for Geometry Global, in Sao Paulo, consistent with his LinkedIn page.

His accounts included British American Tobacco brands Dunhill, Lucky Strike and Kent, his page noted.

Describing the strategy he used, Mr. Nastari wrote, “Our insight was that Dunhill is the brand that transforms the town into a platform of discoveries, delivering exclusive experiences to younger audiences.

Make Dunhill recognized as a contemporary, bold, and sassy brand, thus being more appealing to the typical smoker under 30 years.

All this considering Brazil’s legal restrictions of cigarette advertising.”

Mr. Nastari didn't answer a reporter’s inquiry, but these notes are not any longer available on LinkedIn.

The NY Times reached bent the social media posters included during this article.

Several, including tico13, vikicecarelli1, and Mr. Nastari, acknowledged receipt but declined to be interviewed.

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