Here in Switzerland the politicians recently voted NOT to ban or further restrict tobacco advertising. The health lobby were pretty angry but I think most people were generally in favour of the decision. Advertising here is of course limited in relation to how it used to be. It is not allowed in magazines or on T.V. but in most cantons it is allowed on posters and advertising hoardings, in tobacconists and in some special events such as clubbings, music, cultural and even sports events.
Switzerland is outside the EU so some legislative restrictions on smoking are less strict here or ignored completely. I am therefore surprised that right at the heart of the EU, Germany still hasn’t banned cigarette advertising hoardings. I’m not quite sure how they manage that, but obviously cigarette companies are making the most of it.
Germany is however starting to sell cigarettes in virtually plain packaging (though not so draconianly plain as in the UK or Australia). The new cigarette packs in Germany have substantially larger and more prominent health warnings and nasty photographs but there is still a hint of the brand logo which will not be the case in stricter regimes. In case branding becomes banned altogether the tobacco companies are using advertising hoardings as fully as possible to create and keep brand loyalty.
As might be expected, Marlboro are ahead of the game. Their latest campaign “You Decide” has done all that a good advertising campaign should do; it has created interest and controversy. People are talking about it even here in Switzerland. And for the most part, the response has been positive. It has hit a nerve. It’s simple message can be interpreted in many ways but for those of us who smoke, and even for non smokers who have libertarian leanings, it is as if Marboro is reminding us that we are free agents who can make our own choices.
l am sure Marlboro are as corrupt and heartless as any other major multinational company. But I do quite admire them for this campaign. It is as if somebody is fighting back on our behalf. Marlboro have never forced me to smoke their brand or to smoke at all, but many governments and health fascists have been trying to force people like me to stop smoking for decades. This latest slogan from Marlboro has become something of a battle-cry for those of us who want the right to live as we choose and not all be clean living sheep without an original thought in our heads.
That is a right and a freedom that is being stripped away from adults all over the world; not just in respect of smoking of course, but in many areas of lifestyle and politics. And always the people who deprive us of our right to choose think they are doing it for our benefit, because they are better and cleverer than us and we should all be like them.
But no. You decide.
The other slogans attached to the You Decide campaign are also quite deep and provocative.
Will the world know your name?
Is the sky the limit?
Will you stay real?
Is up the only way?
What’s your next move?
Is freedom a state of mind?
These all seem to be questions about individualism; something that society has forgotten to value but which is very important in our family at least. So the Marlboro ads resonate with us. I smoke Marlboro Gold quite often but none of our family are regular Marlboro smokers. Tina, the youngest smoker in our family, usually smokes Parisienne but these Marlboro advertisements have scored a goal with her. “I feel like we should support Marlboro on this,” She told me, “Because they are saying something that should be said. And they are making people think.”