EDITORIAL: Tobacco giants must turn to PR

The received wisdom is that following the long awaited ban on tobacco advertising and sponsorship last week, the enormous sums formerly spent above the line will now be siphoned off into below the line activities - and with the ban now extended to direct marketing - in particular PR.

The received wisdom is that following the long awaited ban on

tobacco advertising and sponsorship last week, the enormous sums

formerly spent above the line will now be siphoned off into below the

line activities - and with the ban now extended to direct marketing - in

particular PR.



But just because one promotional door has closed, it certainly doesn’t

mean that another will automatically open.



While there is still some confusion at the Department of Health,

regarding details of the implementation of the EU directive, what has

become clear is that opportunities for proactive communications of all

types are to be seriously curtailed. To date a majority of consumer PR

campaigns have tended to concentrate on supporting the considerable

advertising and sponsorship spend of tobacco companies. This avenue of

communication has now been effectively cut off.



The ban covers all forms of proactive communication with consumers -

even corporate community initiatives have been outlawed under the clause

which defines ’advertising’ as ’a form of commercial communication with

the aim of promoting tobacco products’.



The directive has now entered a consultation period during which areas

such as communicating with others in the tobacco trade, such as

retailers, will have to be more clearly defined. However, it seems

likely that the only recourse that tobacco companies will now have is to

work at positioning themselves as responsible corporate citizens. It is

chiefly by encouraging senior executives to put their heads above the

parapet and establish themselves as authoritative spokespeople on

industry issues that tobacco companies will be able to maintain a public

presence.



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