Following on the heels of its industry’s successful “Truth” anti-smoking campaign, Henrico County-based Philip Morris USA announced plans this morning to launch its own advertising initiative to highlight how lighting up can make people cooler.
The company has budgeted nearly $500 million over the next three years for the ads, which will promote how cigarettes – if used properly – turn normal, everyday people into awesome, everyday people.
“The concept behind the campaign is simple: ‘Don’t be a nerd,'” said Philip Morris vice president of marketing Karl P. Flinders, showing off the company’s newest cigarette pack concept, which looks like an iPod. “We only want to show that smoking, while it may or not be unhealthy, separates the men from the boys and the hot babes from the Ugly Bettys.”
The campaign will include print, radio and TV messages that will court Philip Morris’ target demographic, largely made up of men and women aged 18 and older who don’t want to be losers, Flinders said. Each advertisement will include the campaign tagline, “Smoke Squares. Don’t Be One,” using “squares” as both the slang term for “cigarettes” and “dweebs,” he said.
The company’s campaign is particularly timely as the tobacco industry attempts to shift from the negative perceptions of “cancer sticks” to a more positive approach of selling “sexy ciggies,” said Erica Hayden, an ad critic at trade publication AdWeek in New York.
“Far too long, Philip Morris and Big Tobacco have been shooting themselves in the foot by being forced by the federal government to fund anti-smoking marketing,” Hayden said. “This latest initiative finally gives them the opportunity to show that ‘The Truth’ is, as they see it, ‘Incredibly False.'”
She noted that the ads should help show that cigarettes are most cool and sexy when either held between the index and middle fingers, or “kind of hanging off the upper lip or lit all totally sweet-like, as [actors] James Dean or Colin Farrell do.”
Philip Morris’ Flinders said the ads will try to break several smoking myths, including how the last seven years of life are much better if spent a non-nerd, and how secondhand smoke can make people “swell, not smell.”
In addition to the advertisements – which will not even bother to run in computer gaming, science-fiction or mathematics-related media outlets – Philip Morris will include an “Arthur Fonzarelli Warning” label opposite the admonition from the Surgeon General to outline how smoking causes increased friendships with awesome people, reduces the risk of not being picked up at bars and notes that the Virginia Slims brand contains ingredients that help women continue looking good throughout pregnancies.