A TV ad for e-cigarettes has been band by the UK’s ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) for indirectly promoting smoking through being what it refers to as “glamorous”.
In the Mirage ad, produced by White Noise Productions, a woman and man handle clouds of vapour as well as an e-cigarette. Five complaints to the ASA said that the couple featured in the ad were glamorising the use of tobacco products and the smoking of tobacco products.
The ASA upheld some of the complaints in an assessment, agreeing that the softly-spoken voice-over, heavy vapour clouds, and the close-up shots of the woman’s lips gave a general impression of intimacy and sultry glamour.
However, the authority observed that there were no products resembling traditional tobacco products or any terminology connected with those products actually depicted in the ad. They concluded, therefore, that the ad did not promote the actual tobacco products themselves, but rather the vapour and actions associated with these products, which still resulted in creating a glamorous association with the act of smoking.
Although the ad clearly showed electronic cigarettes rather than traditional cigarettes, the fact that the ad created a strong association with traditional smoking caused it to result in a central focus on the act being glamorous and sultry. This produces a positive association with smoking, which the ASA said indirectly promoted the use of tobacco products in general.
This resulted in the independent regulator finding the ad in breach of broadcasting codes. The ASA requested that Mirage not allow the ad in its current form to be broadcast again; and in addition, to make sure that future advertising did not promote the use of tobacco products.
Requests for comment were not responded to by White Noise or Mirage.
In other news, an investigation by Lorillard’s Blu in the UK underway in order to ascertain whether or not an email sent out as part of its partnership with Wolverhampton Wolves Football Club was sent to children under the age of 18.
As a sponsor of Wolves, advertising its stadium, the company was able to send out a promotional code that offered supporters who opted to receive emails from third parties a discount on Blue e-cigs. The recipients on the mailing list may have included a number of minors.
Blu confirmed that there are guards on its website that are designed to prevent access by those under 18.
A spokesperson for the company said that their website is age-gated and that the special offer for Wolves fans was intended for those subscribers who are over 18. Wolves as assured the company that they will act accordingly in order to rectify the situation, and Blu has offered to assist in any way necessary.
What Does This Mean? There are two reasons the Mirage ruling is particularly interesting.
Firstly, the ASA has acknowledged that there is no resemblance between conventional cigarettes and tank systems. This is an important distinction that has not been acknowledged by many local and national governments, as illustrated in the arguments behind banning vaping in public and youth protection.
On the other hand, the ad was banned for associating “glamour” with an activity that could be considered similar to regular smoking. this leaves grey areas that need to be examined more closely. It would be best for e-cig companies to avoid clouds of vapour in future promotional material.
Although the Blu internal investigation seems to be no more than a minor error, it does illustrate how careful e-cig companies need to be in their promotions – especially when partnering with third parties.