Select Committee on Health Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 700 - 719)



700  Presumably what you do would not just relate to price, it would relate to the image. What kind of image do you project which would appeal to lower income purchasers? Can you give me an example?

  (Mr MacLennan) I do not think it works quite as you suspect it does. Often you communicate the price, you come up with something you hope people will notice, the target audience, whoever you are targeting, will notice. I should like to make the point that our audience is always adult smokers, that is whom we are targeting and that is what we are trying to do to make one brand stand up over and above other brands.

  Chairman: There is one area we may wish to explore, bearing in mind that everyone who comes here, certainly from the industry side, stresses the fact that it is adults being targeted. It seems interesting that we have so many young smokers, but perhaps we can explore that later on in this session.

Dr Stoate

701  Suggestions are made in the papers we have received that companies, with your assistance, might aim to create specific brands for women, students, young men or lads. Do you have any qualms about these ideas?

  (Mr MacLennan) As long as it is adults, no, I do not. It is true that one does develop brands to appeal more to certain sectors of the population.

702  If you have no qualms about it, just to pick up on something submitted by your company under the title "Male, Laddish, Blokey" it says "Opportunity exists, therefore, for a male targeted brand, perhaps co-branded with Loaded or with scantily clad women on the cigarette paper". What sort of image do you think that projects and what image are you trying to project with that type of approach?

  (Mr MacLennan) I think the context of the documents is important and I should just like to comment on that. When you are developing something like that what you have is people sitting round a room like this and coming up with ideas. Some of them are stupid, some of them are wrong; it is brainstorming and that applies to the previous document, let us say the "Jowell" document. The rule is that you write down anything and you do not cross off anything. That happens later, the filter, the common sense filter happens later. That particular bit of communication would not be allowed within the code anyway so it did not happen and it never would happen.

703  That is purely an in-house bit of fun to raise that or was it actually a serious attempt to widen the debate within the company?

  (Mr MacLennan) We were actually looking at developing a brand. What we often look at are the values of the smokers to whom that brand may appeal and that was informing that debate. In terms of the nature of the communication that is just inaccurate and wrong and would never see the light of day.

704  The papers we have received also make it clear that brand image is critical to young smokers. What techniques have you used to respond to this need to try to target specific groups of smokers?

  (Mr MacLennan) "Techniques" is the wrong word. We do not sit around and say there are some special techniques which one uses to appeal to young people. I do not think brand image is more important to young people than to middle aged people or older people, they just have a distinct and different set of images which appeal to them. There are no techniques which one uses to sit down and somehow appeal to them. You just try to come up with an image which is relevant to the target audience. In this case it was younger, which I believe was 18 to 25-year-old smokers.

705  In that case why are young men's style magazines such as FHM, Loaded, Maxim, etcetera, such an important channel of communication for your company?

  (Mr MacLennan) They are not particularly.

706  The papers we have received certainly seem to say that these types of magazines are critical to your success. Do you think that is not particularly true?

  (Mr MacLennan) No, I do not think it is particularly true. The reason one would use them is because they target the particular market you are trying to reach more efficiently.


707  Could I just clarify something? You implied that the "undermine Jowell" point I raised earlier on was part of a brainstorming session. This is in one of the documents which you submitted. Could you clarify that point?

  (Mr MacLennan) Yes, I think I can. It is a bit of paper which we found and we submitted it together with everything else as we were instructed to do. My recall is that it was around the advertising ban issue. We believed that the advertising ban was wrong because it was based on the wrong premise that actually advertising encourages smoking. We had a brainstorm, a list of ideas and none of those saw the light of day. To be honest I am not even sure it got sent to the TMA, Gallaher or anyone. I suspect it did not.

Mr Austin

708  May I ask CDP a question on whom you are targeting in your advertising campaign? Part of your internal memorandum in the dossier talks about the good news on one campaign, that you were trying to get "fuck" through and were continuing to speak to Oasis' management to see if they would do the ad, and Slaphead was going to pre-production to appear in the Style magazines in January. What sort of audience was that targeted at?

  (Mr Macleod) Could you read that again? I do not recall what that was about. I do not have the dossier.

709  It is a memorandum from Matt Harrison to David Greaves. We will come back to that and give you a chance to think about that. Mr MacLennan referred to the Advertising Standards Authority and we have had evidence about advertising practice. That seems to me to be a very clear set of regulations and guidelines. In particular I am looking at the CAP rules which say that advertisements should not link smoking with people who are evidently wealthy, fashionable, sophisticated or successful or who possess other attributes or qualities which may reasonably be expected to command admiration or encourage emulation. Yet in the evidence, for example from Benson & Hedges, it refers to "classy and aspirational"; "the success of Marlboro Lights derives from its being the "aspirational, lifestyle brand". Do you not think those come somewhat into conflict with the guidelines as laid down in the CAP?

  (Mr MacLennan) On the surface of it they do. What you have to realise though is that one is guidelines for advertising and one is a product which exists and people think that smoking and smoking some brands is particularly aspirational, that does not necessarily come from advertising. It may come from many different sources.


710  Like what?

  (Mr MacLennan) Like for younger people the fact that you cannot do it until you are adult makes it something they could aspire to. There is no way round that, it is just a fact. Role models who smoke are probably a more powerful influencing factor. Those two.

Mr Austin

711  Particularly for young people.

  (Mr MacLennan) I would imagine more so for young people.

712  So it would be not unreasonable for some of us to think that those adverts are particularly targeted at young people.

  (Mr MacLennan) It would be wrong for you to think that they were?

713  Would it be wrong for us to think that they were targeted at young people?

  (Mr MacLennan) No, it would not: young adult smokers. Some brands are targeted at young adult smokers, some are targeted at older adult smokers. It is true that certain brands do have greater appeal to different sectors of the population.

714  Would they not also have a greater appeal to younger people below the age of 16 as well?

  (Mr MacLennan) All I can say is that in every briefing we have given you, with one exception which I am sure we shall come on to, the target audience is adult smokers and our messages are designed to appeal to adult smokers.

715  Have you done any research into when smokers start smoking?

  (Mr MacLennan) No.

716  May I take you on to the question of health because this inquiry is looking at the health issues related to tobacco? The papers we have received seem to suggest that you are anxious to avoid smokers thinking of health issues at the same time as looking at your advertisements? For example, Marlboro Pack Research suggests that it is negative advertising to show the pack in the advert since "overtly selling is worse as it prompts health concerns". May I also take up the issue of pressure, as to where your advertisements appear? In a memo M&C Saatchi agree to speak to CDP "... to ensure that Sovereign does not appear opposite health section of The Mirror in the future". Would you regard these as ethical practices on your part?

  (Mr MacLennan) I think they are entirely ethical. To put it opposite the health page would antagonise people such as yourselves. Why would one do that thing? As far as the messages are concerned, there is a very large health warning on advertisements saying that they are bad, indeed the only words on many advertisements say that smoking kills. Then to put an image in there which encourages people to think of other aspects of health would be a strange way to advertise. I do not think it is unethical in the slightest.

717  The TBWA evidence specifically suggests that you would not wish to prompt health concerns in the marketing of the product.

  (Mr Bainsfair) That refers to some research amongst consumers and their comments, does it not?

718  On the third page of your evidence you suggest that it is negative advertising to show the pack as it is more likely to prompt health concerns amongst a targeted audience.

  (Mr Bainsfair) This is research carried out by an independent research company not by the advertising agency. It was carried out by the research company amongst consumers. Here what they are doing is reporting back on what consumers were saying in the groups.

719  Clearly anything which does associate the product with a health risk is bad for sales and you want to avoid that in your advertising.

  (Mr Bainsfair) As Mr MacLennan said, it is just common sense that you would not want to juxtapose the two things together.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries

© Parliamentary copyright 2000
Prepared 6 March 2000