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Case Studies

1. Discount Brands
2. Sponsorship
3. Low Tar Product Category
4. Rolling Tobacco
5. Tobacco Marketing and Young People

In 1999, the House of Commons Health Select Committee acquired access to internal documents of the main advertising agencies of the UK tobacco industry as part of their investigation into the conduct of the tobacco industry. A range of documents were obtained including: contact reports between client and agency, client briefs, creative briefs, media briefs, media schedules, advertising budgets and market research reports (their own and others by contracted agencies).

The Centre for Tobacco Control Research at the University of Strathclyde have used the searchable archive as a tool to analyse these advertising agency documents and to develop a series of five marketing Case Studies. The subjects covered are Discount Brands, Sponsorship, the Low Tar Product Category, Rolling Tobacco and Tobacco Marketing and Young People.

Relevant keywords have been used to search the archive and each Case Study contains many extracts from the resulting internal documents to demonstrate how the UK tobacco industry and their advertising agencies market their products.

The Case Studies are summarised below. Click on the links to download the full Case Study in Adobe Acrobat pdf or Word format.

To view the Adobe Acrobat pdf format, you will need to download Adobe Acrobat Reader.

1. Discount Brands

The price of cigarettes is one of the most important factors affecting tobacco consumption as high cigarette prices can discourage people from taking up smoking and encourage those who smoke to quit. Due to the increasing price of cigarettes, discount brands are becoming popular. This case study demonstrates that discount brands have the potential to fulfil both the practical needs (e.g. monetary costs) and emotional needs (e.g. quality concerns) of smokers. It also highlights that discount brands are becoming more popular among lower socio-economic groups and have the potential to attract the patronage of young smokers. It also highlights that marketing activity is designed to reassure smokers of the quality and acceptability of such brands.

view adobe acrobat pdf version (427 KB) | view word version (106 KB)

2. Sponsorship

The European Union (EU) Directive on the banning of tobacco advertising and promotion bans tobacco sponsorship in the EU by 2005. The UK Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act (2002) bans virtually all forms of tobacco promotion. Sponsorship has therefore become a vital medium for the tobacco industry in the face of these advertising and promotion restrictions. This case study demonstrates that sponsorship works in a very similar manner to advertising and is used to associate brands with successful and aspirational characteristics which contravenes the voluntary regulations that were in place at the time. The case study concludes by recommending that sponsorship should be subject to the same statutory restrictions as advertising and other marketing tools.

view adobe acrobat pdf version (431 KB) | view word version (104 KB)

3. Low Tar Product Category

Concerns have been raised regarding the perceptions smokers have of ‘low tar’ products in terms of indicating a less harmful product compared to full strength brands. The industry’s internal documents confirm these concerns by highlighting that low tar products are perceived as healthier and safer alternatives by smokers. The industry exploits these perceptions and the concerns smokers have regarding their habit by positioning low tar products to ease the guilt associated with smoking and make smokers feel better about their habit. They are also positioned as a substitute for quitting. The tobacco industry is ultimately concerned with increasing the number of smokers smoking low tar brands. It achieves this by recruiting from other brands, attracting new recruits to the market and by discouraging smokers from quitting. At no point in the documents are there any concerns raised about the health effects of these products.

view adobe acrobat pdf version (424 KB) | view word version (105 KB)

4. Rolling Tobacco

Unlike manufactured cigarettes, the majority of rolling tobacco in the UK is purchased illegally and it has been alleged that the tobacco industry may be involved in supporting smuggling activities. This case study confirms that bootlegging within the rolling tobacco market is extremely popular and highlights that the tobacco industry sees bootlegging as a legitimate and desirable distribution channel. Extracts demonstrate that certain brands are promoted to bootleggers in other European countries in order to increase demand among smokers in the UK.

view adobe acrobat pdf version (492 KB) | view word version (232 KB)

5. Tobacco Marketing and Young People

The majority of people start smoking in their teenage years and young people are therefore a particularly important market to the tobacco industry. This case study highlights that smoking among the young is as much about image as it is about product attributes and that the tobacco industry regards the image consciousness of this group as a vulnerability they can exploit. Extracts demonstrate that the industry have detailed pictures of the values and aspirations of smokers as young as 15 years. There is also evidence that they are acutely aware of the reasons for smoking initiation among young people and among children as young as 8 years. Recruiting people young is also viewed as an important factor in the future success of brands.

view adobe acrobat pdf version (462 KB) | view word version (198 KB)

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