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Some interesting examples of horses for courses in tobacco advertising were to be seen early this year in Guatemalan newspapers. Snow is about as common in Guatemala as palm trees in Antarctica, but when you are selling a myth to educated people, you can use a wide range of reference points. Philip Morris’s Marlboro brand is mostly smoked by the higher and middle socioeconomic classes, so a pretty cowboy scene with snow is no barrier when wishing people a happy holiday season from the world of Marlboro.
However, Philip Morris also makes the local Rubios brand, smoked mainly by people at the lower end of the socioeconomic scale, so for its “Merry Christmas” ad, a traditional Guatemalan scene, with a starlit courtyard looking suitably nativity-like for the Catholic audience, was more appropriate. It is all a long way from the total ad ban that is so urgently needed in Guatemala, as in all countries where tobacco promotion is still permitted. The big question is whether the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which Guatemala has already signed, will succeed in banishing ads like these for good—traditional scenes, cowboys, snow and all.