Skycig starts agency hunt after split with PHA Media

E-cigarette brand Skycig is looking for a new PR agency to help with a shift in comms strategy following the end of its relationship with PHA Media.

Skycig: Splitting with PHA Media
Skycig: Splitting with PHA Media

The rethink was prompted by the UK company's acquisition by US tobacco player Lorillard for £30m in October, according to Skycig PR manager Lyndsey Wilson.

"There has been quite a significant boost in funding and a shake-up, meaning we’re looking to change direction and bring in a fresh pair of eyes," she said.

A shortlist of agencies has been drawn up ahead of pitches in the coming weeks and PHA Media was not invited to participate. The retained brief will be an expansion of current work, with one or potentially two agencies appointed to cover everything from consumer and trade work through to public affairs.

Wilson told PRWeek the three year-old-company wanted to pursue a lifestyle positioning. She said: "Our previous strategy was more focused on offering smokers a way to move away from smoking tobacco but enjoy the same pleasure – now we are moving towards offering smokers a positive lifestyle choice and not simply an alternative to smoking."

Skycig's e-cigarettes, refills and accessories are currently sold online and at newsagents, as well as retailers including Costcutter and Morrisons. 

The new strategy will involve portraying e-cigarettes as offering the opportunity to "bring smokers back into the social fold in a society where they’ve been quite marginalised", she said. "It is about offering a socially acceptable alternative, and educating people with the focus being on e-cigarettes as a lifestyle alternative for smokers who want to change."

News of the tender comes as regulators and traditional tobacco companies struggle to react swiftly to a boom in the market, which some estimates placing the industry as worth £2.7bn now but growing to £6bn by 2017. 

There has been uncertainty around the long-term health impact of e-cigarettes, and in December the European Union agreed that refillable e-cigarettes could be banned across Europe were three countries to decide on their prohibition.

Wilson said: "We face two obstacles. The first is that even though the product doesn’t contain tobacco or tar we can’t market e-cigarettes as healthier or safer [than ciagrettes].

"The second is public perception, and the idea that some see [our product] as another version of a cigarette, which it isn’t at all. We want to set ourselves apart from tobacco without demonising those who use it."

PHA associate director  Shelley Frosdick said:"We have worked successfully with SKYCIG for over 2 years, delivering a variety of award-winning campaigns which have directly led to an increase in sales along with brand awareness.  Our activity has been varied and far reaching and always very well received by the client who we have a good relationship with.  We wish SKYCIG well with their future plans."

The purchase of Skycig by Lorillard followed on from the tobacco company’s acquisition of Blu Ecigs for $135m in 2012. 

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