Juul Labs, the red-hot vaporizer company in which tobacco giant Altria acquired a 35% stake for $12.8 billion last year, has hired its first head of creative marketing, a spokesperson confirmed Tuesday.
Perry Fair recently joined the San Francisco-based business as vp, global creative and design. He reports to chief marketing officer Craig Brommers, who accepted that position in April after spending nearly three years as CMO at the Gap. (Brommers is a retail veteran who previously held similar roles with Abercrombie & Fitch, Calvin Klein and Speedo.)
According to Juul, Fair will “work on communicating how Juul’s product improves the lives of adult smokers.” The spokesperson said he joined the company, at least in part, because he was “drawn to Juul’s mission” as a former smoker.
Fair most recently served as head of partnerships at Red Bull Media House and vp of global creative at Beats by Dre, but he also brings an extensive agency background to the new role, having held top roles at JWT, TBWA\Chiat\Day, Grey and Burrell Communications, among others. His online portfolio includes a variety of work ranging from Beats, the NFL and Nissan to, perhaps appropriately, the anti-smoking group Truth.
Fair did not respond to a request for comment this week.
Juul declined to elaborate on the nature of its marketing work beyond linking to the homepage of its “Make the Switch” campaign and another page outlining a “strict adherence” to guidelines that forbid any marketing or other commercial work designed to appeal to consumers under the age of 21. (Since Juul products contain nicotine, their sale is very tightly regulated by the federal government.)
The aforementioned campaign primarily consists of one-on-one interviews with former smokers who claim that Juul products helped them stop using combustible tobacco.
Last year, Adweek’s AgencySpy reported that DDB New York won Juul’s advertising business in a creative review as the company continued its rapid growth. According to parties familiar with the matter, a group of Omnicom properties, including that agency, currently handles external marketing work for the client. CP+B executive and anti-smoking activist Alex Bogusky later called DDB out by name on his video podcast, describing Juul’s marketing efforts as “deceptive.”
DDB declined to comment for this story, and Omnicom did not immediately respond to a related email. Juul declined to comment on its relationship with the holding company.
Juul faces more challenges than most companies when it comes to marketing its products, despite their runaway popularity. After announcing plans to crack down on retailers selling vape products to teenagers in an April 2018 release and issuing a September statement regarding a re-evaluation of its compliance policy for Juul and similar products in terms of current regulations regarding the sale of tobacco and nicotine, the Food and Drug Administration searched the company’s headquarters in October, seizing thousands of documents specifically related to its sales and marketing practices.
As the company increasingly pitches itself to insurers as an anti-tobacco aid, hiring addiction researchers and healthcare executives, the federal government and smoking advocacy groups have taken up the fight.
This week, the FDA’s “The Real Cost” campaign, created by FCB, ran its first explicitly anti-vaping spot, and Truth—the very group for which Juul’s new marketing executive formerly created ads—issued a statement in May arguing that Juul’s disclaimer about how its products are not intended to be used to help consumers quit smoking or using nicotine altogether is “insufficient to overcome the cessation claims in Juul’s ads.”
The new FDA video features street magician Julius Dein arguing that teens who begin vaping are more likely to smoke real cigarettes.
In June, former FDA director Scott Gottlieb told CNBC he thought it would be difficult for Juul to satisfy the federal government’s 10-month deadline to submit its products for approval in the market. A U.S. District Court previously ruled that the FDA had exceeded its authority by giving Juul and others like it until 2022 to file for approval.
“We are closely assessing the court’s ruling,” said the company spokesperson in a statement provided the day after this story went live. “Juul Labs is fully committed to the PMTA process and we’re confident in the content and quality of the materials we will submit with our application.”
The statement continued, “We already have invested well over $100 million in developing the highest-quality body of scientific evidence to show how adult smokers interact with our products and the net-population impact. This includes research demonstrating the historic ability of Juul products to switch adult smokers from combustible cigarettes, including complete switching rates of approximately 50% after initiating on Juul use. We are confident that our growing body of evidence as well as our industry-leading actions to combat underage access and use will ensure adult smokers continue to have a true alternative to cigarettes, the leading cause of preventable death worldwide.”