Campaigns for E-Cigarettes Borrow From Tobacco’s Heyday
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Wednesday, December 5, 2012 | Stuart Elliott | Categories:
It has been decades since American consumers could watch cigarette commercials, which once filled the airwaves with pitches for brands like Camel, Chesterfield, Kool, Lucky Strike, Pall Mall, Viceroy and Winston. Now, they can watch cigarette spots again, to an extent: the smokes being advertised are electronic rather than made from tobacco. Marketers of e-cigarettes are introducing campaigns that echo the traditional appeals for tobacco cigarettes in both content and media placements. For instance, the ads have catchy themes that could be deemed on a par with “I’d walk a mile for a Camel” or “Only Viceroy has a thinking man’s filter ... a smoking man’s taste.” Ads for Njoy King carry the theme “Cigarettes, you’ve met your match” and ads for Blu eCigs carry the theme “Rise from the ashes.” Some e-cigarette ads feature celebrity endorsers, in the way that ads for conventional cigarettes once featured actors, athletes, doctors and even cartoon characters. The actor Stephen Dorff began appearing in October in a campaign for Blu eCigs, which was acquired this year by Lorillard, the maker of mainstay cigarette brands like Kent, Old Gold and Newport. Commercials for Blu eCigs, as well as brands like Njoy King, are running on cable networks, in the same way that spots for tobacco cigarettes were once shown on the ABC, CBS and NBC broadcast networks. (Because e-cigarettes are not tobacco products, they are not covered by the longtime restrictions on using commercials to sell tobacco cigarettes.) And while no e-cigarette has a jingle in its commercials in the way that consumers were once serenaded with tunes like “Winston Tastes Good Like a Cigarette Should” and “Be Happy — Go Lucky,” Njoy King is using the hit song by Foreigner, “Feels Like the First Time,” in its commercials. Njoy Inc., which also sells e-cigarette brands like OneJoy, is introducing this week the campaign for Njoy King, with a budget estimated at $12 million to $14 million through the next six months. The campaign, being handled by several agencies, includes the commercials; ads in print, in stores and online; sampling; the Njoy Web site, njoy.com; social media; and events in clubs and restaurants. The campaigns for the various e-cigarette brands are “going to increase awareness and trial” and “bring some excitement to the category,” said Bonnie Herzog, an analyst at Wells Fargo Securities in New York who follows the tobacco industry — and also, increasingly, the e-cigarette industry. “Let’s just say, my phone is ringing,” Ms. Herzog said. “It is not a fad.” “E-cigarettes are to tobacco what energy drinks were or are to beverages,” she added. “It is a small category that is growing very fast, embraced by retailers and consumers.” Annual sales for e-cigarettes in the United States are at $500 million, compared with $100 billion for tobacco cigarettes, Ms. Herzog estimated. But as “e-cigarettes continue to evolve in technology,” she said, and as additional large tobacco marketers “jump in” the category, it can become a “game-changer.” In addition to Blu eCigs and Njoy Inc., Ms. Herzog also follows e-cigarette makers that include Vapor Corporation, which sells brands like Fifty-One and Krave, and the Fin Branding Group, which sells Fin. Blu eCigs and Njoy Inc. are considered to be the sales leaders. “Our No. 1 objective is getting this product into people’s hands,” Andrew Beaver, chief marketing officer at Njoy Inc. in Scottsdale, Ariz., said of Njoy King. “The more like the real thing” it is perceived to be, he added, “the more smokers get into the category.” So the commercials describe Njoy King as “the first electronic cigarette with the look, feel and flavor of the real thing.” And print ads carry headlines like “The most amazing thing about this cigarette? It isn’t one.” The commercials have been accepted by cable channels owned by Discovery Communications and Viacom, Mr. Beaver said, as well as local broadcast stations in markets like Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Seattle. So far, no broadcast networks have agreed to carry the spots, he said, adding: “We applaud those cable networks and spot stations working with us to provide adult smokers an alternative to cigarettes, and our loyalty to them will be self-evident. Other networks have yet to see the light and until they do, they won’t see our money either.” The Arcade Creative Group in New York, which is the creative agency for Njoy King, was asked to “let the product be the hero,” Mr. Beaver said, and “appeal to a broad audience of adult cigarette smokers, ages 21 to 45.” Arcade, part of Sony Music Entertainment, was hired in June. “It was the first time in a pitch probably in my life that I ever favorably referred to my cigarette experience as a young guy” in the business, said Adam Owett, president of Arcade, who worked on Lucky Strike Lights and Carlton at the Daniel & Charles agency in the 1980s and gave up smoking around 1988. “The way I’ve been thinking of it is as ‘The shock of the old,’ ” Mr. Owett said, in that “the classic cigarette ad cues and images have basically disappeared from the advertising and media landscape.” “This is a modern take on how you’d introduce a cigarette,” he added, that ought to “grab the attention of the committed smoker.” The other agencies working on the campaign include Horizon Media, for media services; Factory 360, for sampling; Sloane & Company, for public relations; and Forum Strategies and Communications, for public affairs and policy.New York Times