Magazine article Marketing

Time to Test the 'Fewer Ads More Smokers' Thesis

Magazine article Marketing

Time to Test the 'Fewer Ads More Smokers' Thesis

Article excerpt

It's a very dangerous thing to even hint in public, in the presence of George Bull of Grand Metropolitan, Guinness and the Advertising Association, that the advertising of cigarettes is not wholly beneficial nor the sort of activity you could expect to win a Nobel Peace Prize for.

The fact that the British Grand Prix and the occasional snooker and darts match might now be threatened makes Bull's case both more pressing and almost incontrovertible.

And yet this non-smoker - oh all right, there has been the occasional cigar - feels somewhere deep in his respiratory system that New Labour, the government that is conservative on big issues like income tax and endlessly radical on smaller matters, might be right.

There were two main arguments produced by Bull at a recent magazine conference when gently prodded on the issue of ciggies and advertising. One is obviously the mantra of the Advertising Association. There should be the freedom to advertise products that are legal to sell. It seems a powerful argument, but there is little logic to it. There is no reason on earth why a grudging freedom to sell should not be acknowledged yet have limits placed on the freedom to advertise. The test is the scale of the damage caused through normal use or abuse. On such an argument, this supporter of WC Field's horror of water drinking would give advertising of alcohol, and Guinness in particular, a clean bill of health.

The second thesis of Bull is more troubling. It is that smoking increases where advertising is banned. …

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