Select Committee on Health Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 693 - 699)

THURSDAY 20 JANUARY 2000

MR M MACLENNAN, MR C MACLEOD, MR N MUSTOE AND MR P BAINSFAIR

Chairman

693  Good morning. May I thank you for your attendance today? You have had a taste of the direction of our questions with being here already. May I ask you each to introduce yourselves briefly to the Committee.

  Paul Bainsfair. I am Chairman of TBWA GGT Simons Palmer Limited.

  I am Nick Mustoe, I am the Chief Executive of Mustoe Merriman Herring & Levy.

  I am Chris McLeod, Chief Executive of CDP.

  I am Moray MacLennan, Joint Chief Executive of M&C Saatchi.

694  May I begin by expressing our thanks for the efforts you have made to give us some very detailed evidence? I know there has been a very short timescale to turn this round but it has been helpful and I am sure my colleagues would share my wish to express our appreciation for your cooperation. May I begin by asking a general question? Obviously we are a Health Committee and the motivation for our present inquiry is health. Do you in the work you do take any account of the health implications of smoking?

  (Mr MacLennan) We do to the extent that it is heavily regulated by the ASA code, which I am sure you are familiar with. That is a document which everyone in the country knows and I am sure you are aware of it and it is extremely tight. It says what you can do and what you cannot do and I guess that it is drafted because of the health risk associated with smoking. Really that is the document we adhere to when developing any communications on behalf of Gallaher.

695  Without that guidance you would presumably not take account of the health risk at all.

  (Mr MacLennan) We are briefed by a client to do a certain job; that is the way we operate. They have some products and they want us to communicate something about those products and we will do so within the code. There is a general advertising code as well as a tobacco code and we stick within those guidelines.

696  Would health issues be of any relevance in the advice which you may give to your clients?

  (Mr MacLennan) In terms of the nature of the communication?

697  Yes.

  (Mr MacLennan) In the context of the code I do not think that it would because there are so few things one can actually say in advertising that it never actually comes up as an issue.

698  Would you all subscribe to those answers?

  (Mr Mustoe) Yes, very heavily regulated, very little chance to do anything anyway. If it were not heavily regulated it would be pure speculation as to whether one would then have advice in that area, but as it is regulated there is no opportunity.

699  May I specifically ask you about the higher smoking rates in low income groups? What creative and media buying strategies do you use to target these low income groups? It is very apparent to us as Members of Parliament that smoking is more common among lower income families, the incidence of ill health arising from smoking is more common. We are particularly interested in the way that you clearly do offer strategies on behalf of your clients which relate to these groups. Could you tell us a little bit about it?

  (Mr MacLennan) Within any marketplace you have different brands. I am sure this will be central to this debate, but what we are charged with is switching brands and different brands appeal to different sectors of the community, that is true in any marketplace. Some people prefer different things and they prefer it for a variety of reasons, some to do with the nature of the product, some to do with price and for some is to do with the general image of that product. When a product is developed, more often than not if it is a lower priced cigarette it is more appealing to lower socio-economic groups, then it will be targeted against them in mass market titles and that is the way it works.


 
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