I think we all have some level of distrust in big tobacco companies, despite how strongly they’re trying to persuade us that they’ve changed their ways. Maybe they have, maybe they haven’t. But Philip Morris just recently put out a call for creatives and communications experts to help them create a smoke-free world.
At The Cannes Festival of Creativity, Marian Salzman, the Senior Vice President of Communications at Philip Morris International asked the creative community to join them “in raising awareness of the potential of science, technology, and innovation for those who smoke and the people around them.”
In response to this, via a press release, the Chief Operating Officer Jacek Olczak said that “Quitting tobacco and nicotine remains the best option for smokers, but for those who don’t, science-based non-combustible alternatives are a better choice than continuing to use cigarettes.”
Clearly, they are trying to promote vaping over smoking.
I don’t know exactly what this means, but at least one communications company out of Europe, Emakina Group, has joined the initiative. Emakina’s CEO is quoted on PMI’s website as saying “A smoke-free future for the whole company? Challenge accepted. And you know what? Let’s start now!”
As far as I can tell, this is mostly a marketing campaign designed to change the view that people have of the PMI brand, which is obviously very negative since they’re a tobacco company. A lot of brands actually do marketing campaigns like this, for example, AXE body spray who was known for their sexist commercials started running brand perception campaigns in 2014 to move away from the negative views that the general public had of them. And it works over time, as long as the brand is authentic.
The problem here is that while Philip Morris is trying to promote a smoke-free world by switching smokers to vaping, they still sell cigarettes. I’ve talked about this a little before. It’s true that they still sell cigarettes, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want a smoke-free world. They are a big long-running business with stakeholders and lots of employees. They can’t just stop selling cigarettes or the business will die. But if they slowly replace their smoking customers with vaping customers, over time, it might actually be possible to stop selling cigarettes.
That’s probably a long ways away, but it’s possible.
Maybe PMI really does believe in this new message and this marketing strategy is just the seed that starts them on the process of reaching their end goal.
They are asking that for any agencies interested in joining their cause, to contact Marian Salzman at [email protected]
What do you all think about this?
Do you think Philip Morris is trying to do the right thing? Do you think they really care?
Or maybe this is just PMI looking towards the future and realizing that cigarettes are a dying market and they need to make a shift to stay in business. And if that’s the case, does it really matter, since either way it will be better for the well-being of the world?