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A clearer image is emerging about the likely trends in tobacco promotion over the next few years in countries where tobacco control measures or social pressure make life increasingly difficult for tobacco companies. “Permission marketing”, in which tobacco manufacturers gather the names, addresses, and lifestyle details and preferences of consumers who claim to be smokers, is growing fast as the companies try to build up massive databases to ensure that even if they lose the right to use significant sectors of the advertising media, they can still address potential customers by mail. This is particularly useful for reaching groups with popular interests and high levels of disposable income, such as younger men, often single and without responsibilities—or “lads”', as many advertisers call them.
One of our least laddish, more cuddly informants (Deep Whisker, a cat whose owner in the American south shares his pet's interest in tobacco promotion) last year received a number of revealing mail shots clearly aimed at this market by BAT's US subsidiary Brown & Williamson (B&W). First into the cat-basket came Real Edge, a publication so unashamedly laddish that B&W has this to say about it inside the cover: “Real Edge is edited for adults, with adventure and entertainment at its core. Filled with sports cars, women, aircraft, high-tech electronics, strange places and events and even stranger people, Real Edge is focussed on one thing: having a good time . . . It is published for adult men.” The mag did not let belie its publisher's claims, being filled with all the bare flesh, sports pictures, and toys for boys that any cat could wish for, plus copious promotion for B&W cigarette brands.
Next through the catflap came One World, an independent publication aimed at African Americans and other ethnic minorities (our informant's breed and fur-type are not known), in which B&W had bought a generous five full pages of advertising space, topping off a bulk purchase for its mailing list with a special wrapper promoting Kool cigarettes. This invited Deep Whisker to “Unwrap Something Authentic” (a good word for addressing minorities, that), and to “Enjoy One World on the House”. Other mail shots have arrived from the list, too, including a Kool brand promotion linked to a music tour, with cards for getting friends added to the mailing list, and special offer coupons for buying cigarettes.
Doubtless we can expect more of this the world over, until such time as the deliberate association of positive, attractive images with the most dangerous consumer product the world has ever known is treated with the seriousness it merits.