Philip Morris Mulls TV Pitch With New PSAs

Burnett Tackles Underage Smoking, Test Markets New Product
CHICAGO–Philip Morris may return to television advertising with public service-style spots from lead agency Leo Burnett aimed at halting underage smoking.
Separately, Burnett is handling the test marketing of PM’s new Accord “cigarette smoking system,” which is designed to generate less second-hand smoke.
Ellen Merlo, senior vice president for communications at the New York-based client, confirmed Burnett is in the process of shooting PSAs in Los Angeles, but said there was no firm decision on whether they would air.
“We are doing a lot of research and study on youth smoking prevention to identify the right message and the right programs” to address the problem, Merlo said. “Communications programs, including TV, could be part of it. That is one of any number of options we are considering, but we don’t have enough information yet to decide how best to proceed.”
PM recently established a new department within its communications division to research underage smoking. It launched a program called “Action Against Access” in 1995 to work with retailers to prevent underage smoking and “put more teeth into local laws,” Merlo said. That program continues, but has not involved TV advertising.
Earlier this year, PM joined with three other tobacco companies–Brown & Williamson, Lorillard and R.J. Reynolds–to fund TV spots lobbying against the sharply increased tobacco taxes smokers would pay under legislation shepherded by U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. Not mentioned in the ads–from Bozell/Eskew in Washington, D.C.–is the bill’s proposal for fines against tobacco companies if underage smoking does not decline to predetermined levels.
PM’s Accord, which became available last week at a handful of outlets in Richmond, Va., is a lighter-type device that holds a special cigarette. The cigarette is relit with each puff, and the device captures so-called sidestream smoke and ashes. Retailing for $39.95, the system includes a battery-powered lighter and a carton of Accord cigarettes. Burnett’s work is limited to point-of-purchase merchandise, Merlo said.