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UK: how did these get here?
  1. David Simpson

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    GQ is an upmarket example of what is known in the advertising industry as a “lifestyle” magazine. More cynical observers, including those who stand to make money from this end of the magazine publishing industry, tend to call it a “lads’ mag”, on account of the preponderance of articles and advertisements related to things that young men with a reasonable disposable income and few responsibilities tend to be interested in, such as sport, cars, and electronic gadgets. Oh, and girls. Hence, in those halcyon days before the UK banned almost all tobacco promotion, this type of readership was an irresistible target for cigarette advertising, provided a cigarette brand could be associated with one or more of these subjects, or preferably the lot.

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    Readers of GQ magazine, a UK “lads’ mag”, were recently treated to shots of a young female model superimposed against a racing car, both clearly bearing the Benson & Hedges brand name and colours.

    In August, in a no doubt unintended answer to the question posed in our last edition (

    ), GQ appeared to offer one example. Over six pages, while readers could learn relatively little about Formula One motor sport, they could feast their eyes on a young female model in a variety of postures superimposed against striking shots of a racing car. Both the car and some of the model’s clothes carried the distinctive Benson & Hedges brand name and colours. Anyone with a passing knowledge of advertising will know that these things tend not to get into magazine pictures like this by accident.

    While British American Tobacco makes and markets Benson & Hedges almost everywhere it is sold, the big exception is the UK, where the brand belongs to Gallaher. GQ does not sell significant quantities overseas, so is ideal for advertisers to reach British lads without wasting precious advertising spend that could benefit other manufacturers who sell apparently identical products abroad. Interestingly, in other pages of the August Formula One feature, the model was wearing a silky-looking blouson in a fetching shade of purple exactly like the distinctive brand colour of Silk Cut, Gallaher’s other major UK brand.

    Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) complained to the appropriate trading standards authorities, but on the basis of past experience, recommends that no-one holds their breath waiting for a response—such enquiries as the publishers and advertisers will have to make are not noted for their speed. Sadly, there seems to be no health ministry unit, or other senior government agency, far less a sign of central government will, to respond in the necessary way when there appears to be a deliberate breach of the tobacco advertising ban: an immediate investigation, backed by legal powers to extract all necessary evidence, then, where appropriate, straight into court.

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