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The bizarre time warp of some e-cigarette advertising

If anyone has paid a visit to The Drum today then the rather interesting article ‘Tips on how to market controversial products‘ may have caught your eye. It certainly did with us, anyway.
The supporting image shows a chap preparing to chuff down on an electronic cigarette, which is a logical choice given these nicotine delivery devices are divisive. Should we support an industry that merely replaces one addict’s crutch with another? Admittedly this is a far healthier method of administering said drug, but nevertheless by promoting the act of inhaling a substance that’s both habit-forming and extremely powerful even in small doses there’s a strong argument against this new market existing.
Not least when you take into account the fact Big Tobacco managed to find a way out of accusations it was responsible for distributing a dangerous substance and the associated fallout (i.e. smoke) that results from its use by arguing nicotine- the substance in question- was merely a bi-product of the cigarette. In short, they had no interest in making people addicted to the nicotine in tobacco, which would be wrong. Instead, that’s just an unfortunate side effect of indulgence in cigarettes. It’s moral maze, and one that detracts from the overall point of this blog. As such let’s move on.
If one thing did clearly spring to mind after reading The Drum’s advisory piece it was quite how strange and out of place some e-cigarette adverts now seem. If you’ve seen one of the NJOY television spots then our opinion should make perfect sense. It has been a long, long time since broadcast and print regulations allowed tobacco advertising and sponsorship of any kind, and the world has become a very different place, especially when it comes to cynicism towards marketing and PR, and media literacy. In sort, the aforementioned commercial doesn’t parody or pastiche the rather ridiculous and unarguably cheesy cigarette ad culture of yesteryear so much as it adopts the model.
Those old enough to remember will recall the now-antique mantra of cigarettes as a life-improvement device. Smoke and be happy, sociable, included, accepted and generally seen as cool. Well before the entire industry was banned from trying to lure in unsuspecting types via glossy commercial spend this kind of approach had fallen out of favour. Russ Abbot was tongue in cheek about his penchant for cigars. Regardless of your feelings towards any of these brands, few could argue that Silk Cut’s iconic use of images was a refreshing change. In contrast, simply stating that ‘Mates don’t let other mates smoke’ and then presenting the option of an e-cigarette during a dated-looking montage of a guy in various social situations- thus harking back to the idea that a white stick in the mouth makes you Mr. Popular- just doesn’t really seem to make the grade.

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