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Smoking is a paediatric disease that usually takes decades to claim its victims. Yet the promotion of cigarettes—particularly American cigarettes in Poland—can kill young people instantly.
In the first six months of 1997, five sales representatives at Philip Morris Poland were killed and another critically injured in three separate accidents involving company cars. At first glance it seems that one of the world’s most aggressive marketing programmes and some of the world’s deadliest roads are simply a combination destined to produce repeated tragedies. But a closer look reveals that, in the third and most horrific accident, the company’s gross and perhaps criminal negligence greatly increased the risk to its young employees.
Let’s say you’re a marketing manager at the world’s leading transnational tobacco company, and you’re working in one of those backward little post-communist countries—for example, Poland. Your flagship brand, despite your best efforts and relentless promotional campaigning, just isn’t as popular among Polish youth as you would like it to be. What do you do?
Even more promotions? Sure, the gadgets, contests, and cigarette giveaways must continue. (Never mind that you promised four years ago back home in the United States to stop handing out free samples. Poland ain’t home, is it? Home is now a tobacco war zone. Poland, God love it, is one of the new Promised Lands.) But these promotional tools are standard. You need something more, something with a little zip, a little flare. Something to make heads turn—especially heads that are young and impressionable.
Got it! You know those trick matches that you …