BCW will carry out consumer comms for the tobacco firm, whose brands include Marlboro and Benson & Hedges, beyond its existing work in the APAC region.
But the extended work could create difficulties among BCW’s existing pharma clients AstraZeneca, which does oncology work, and GSK, originally clients of Burson-Marsteller.
Before it was merged, the then Burson-Marsteller had a policy of not accepting tobacco work because of the potential conflict of interest with its pharma clients, many of which will not work with agencies that also have tobacco clients.
PRWeek reported on Monday that former Burson-Marsteller UK chief executive Amanda Pierce had taken on the role of head of comms for PMI in the UK, spearheading its corporate comms programme.
Philip Morris UK corporate affairs director Mark MacGregor said of her appointment: "We are working to become a smoke-free business and I hope Amanda can help us to achieve that ambition as fast as possible."
BCW declined to comment.
PMI denied that it had signed a fresh contract with BCW.
A spokeswoman told PRWeek: "BCW or rather C&W has been our agency in parts of APAC. They do a great job. We have asked them to do some project work with us beyond that geography and nothing else at this time."