Print Ads Don’t Smoke Anymore (aka Last Week’s Blog Rewritten)

Check out this article from The NY Times about one of the largest media buyers in the world . . . a tobacco company.  Here’s the paragraph that most interested me: 


“The R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company disclosed this week that it would run no ads in 2008 in consumer magazines and newspapers for cigarette brands like Camel, Winston and Pall Mall.

Instead, Reynolds said it would concentrate its marketing in three areas that already make up the bulk of its marketing spending: stores, bars and nightclubs; Web sites; and direct mail.”

What was fascinating to me was not that R.J. was pulling out of print.  Everyone knows that print is dying faster than a two-pack-a-day smoker of brands like Camel, Winston and Pall Mall.  What is interesting to me is where they are putting their money. 

(Here’s where you and I can learn from watching how the big boys play with their big boy budgets.)

What do stores, bars, nightclubs, and websites have in common?  You can buy cigarettes there.  The tobacco companies are putting their money closer to their point of purchase.  They realize that a nicotine craving might be intensified by the right ad and their conversion rates will be higher if cigarettes and a guy willing to take your money are only a few steps (or clicks) away from that ad.  Makes sense, doesn’t it? 

Why would they advertise in a magazine, where they can’t control where their ad is going to be seen?  Magazines are read on planes, trains and in bathrooms.  The odds of getting a consumer to purchase a pack of Pall Malls while on the potty are nil.  If you expect your ad to stay in the consumer’s mind until they are at a point of purchase, it either has to be that much stronger (bigger), or it has to be seen much more frequently.  It makes more sense to not take that risk, and find a way to get to where the consumer is more likely to make a purchase.

Tobacco companies are smart.  With all that we know about how bad cigarettes are for our bodies, people still do it, which means they are doing something disgustingly right. So what is it?

For starters, they realize that mass marketing is on its way out.  Strategic and targeted marketing is here.  They are finding out where their customers are, and where they are most likely to purchase their product.  It’s like modern day warfare.  Their campaigns are becoming a bunch of smart missiles instead of blanket bombs. 

Where are your audiences hiding?


Related Posts


Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.