BOB GARFIELD: A movement against tobacco advertising is rolling across Europe. A year ago British-American tobacco, Philip Morris, J.T. International and several other companies launched a new coded of global marketing standards, attempting to ensure that no tobacco advertising is directed to youth. And in the last month, we have seen Britain's Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill originally introduced by Lord Clement-Jones, a liberal Democrat, the anti-tobacco advertising bill recently cleared its last parliamentary hurdle, and it passed unopposed through the House of Commons.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:The specifics are still being worked out, but it looks like tobacco advertising will be banned in Britain by year's end. We reached Mark Kleinman, chief reporter for Marketing Magazine on the line from his busy newsroom to discuss how the ad ban is likely to play out. My first question: how do brands do their branding without advertising? In other words what will make one particular brand stand out from the pack?
MARK KLEINMAN: Well I think the major battleground is, as already said, about price. If the premium brands aren't able to promote themselves in their traditional ways, i.e., through brand advertising, then clearly price is going to become a more important factor in the sale, marketing of tobacco brands.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: So if Marlboro can't craft an image, it's going to have to compete with the generic cigarette brands on price alone.
MARK KLEINMAN:Absolutely. You're - you've already seen that in the past where Philip Morris has had to invest a hell of a lot of money in price cuts just to ensure that brands such as Marlboro can compete with the discount brands.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: It seems as if the tobacco companies will have to resort to some extent to word of mouth.
MARK KLEINMAN:Well I think that word of mouth is obviously important in any consumer brand sector, not just in tobacco, but as you rightly point out in this sector where above the line communications are banned and they need to have brand ambassadors -- people that are going to go and spread the word -- to go into bars and night clubs and, you know, either distribute their cigarettes or encourage people to, to sample them and hopefully then spread the, the message of that brand.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: So in-person promoters would still be allowed.
MARK KLEINMAN: Absolutely. Yeah.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Well what about product placement in movies or even in video games?
MARK KLEINMAN:That, that is an option open to the tobacco companies, but you have to remember that now they've signed up to the global marketing standards to which the major companies like Philip Morris, British-American Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International have signed up to get sort of serious about presenting a more responsible image. They're going to have to shy away from any kind of marketing discipline which leaves them open to accusations of exploitation. I think films are another matter, but at the same time you have to also remember that when Eddie Murphy was seen in Beverly Hills Cop 20 years ago smoking Lucky Strike brand of cigarettes there was a huge controversy even then, and I think the same outrage would, would apply even now.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Are the tobacco companies fighting back?
MARK KLEINMAN:Absolutely. I think a lot of the, the work that the tobacco companies - is doing is behind the scenes and we're, we're not privy to it. You saw that there was a, a web site which British-American Tobacco launched last year which was extremely furtive and clandestine and basically it was a web site who promoted bars and night clubs which stocked B.A.T. brands, but there was no B.A.T. branding on this web site. So-- increasingly tobacco companies are finding other ways to target smokers through lifestyle-based communications, for example in Amsterdam, in Holland there is a shop - a retail outlet - which is basically a bar and entertainment venue where smokers can go. It's entirely funded by British-American Tobacco. The tobacco companies are fighting back, and they will continue to do so, of course.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:You know it's funny but the view from this side of the pond is that Europe is just replete with smokers who smoke happily with no shame while in the United States smokers cower in doorways and stand in the rain and are generally regarded as the scum of the earth. So I wonder how the ban on tobacco advertising where you are either reflects or is likely to change the culture of smoking in Britain.
MARK KLEINMAN: I think that across Europe now with Brussels intervening more and more in national legislation, you're seeing a trend whereby smokers are made to feel increasingly ostracized and that they should be-- only allowed smoking in certain places and there are even calls in the UK media today referring to a complete ban on smoking in public places. So there, certainly the restrictions on, on smokers' rights are becoming increasingly Draconian.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Do experts really believe that the advertising ban will stop smokers from smoking or keep new smokers from starting?
MARK KLEINMAN:The government claims that it will save 3,000 lives a year in the UK alone, which is obviously a, a tremendous number. But you would have to ask the question then that if that's the case, then why when the tobacco advertising ban was a manifesto commitment by Labor in 1997 has it taken 5 years to get the bill through Parliament? The fact is that you could argue that the delay has cost 15,000 lives if you apply the government's arithmetic.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Mark, I'm going to go out on a limb here but, I'm going to guess that you're not a smoker.
MARK KLEINMAN: You're absolutely right.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Thank you very much.
MARK KLEINMAN: You're very welcome.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Mark Kleinman is chief reporter for Marketing Magazine.