Philip Morris Weighing TV Effort

Cigarette Maker May Air Burnett Spots To Battle Underage Smoking
CHICAGO–Philip Morris may return to TV advertising with public service-style spots aimed at halting underage smoking.
Ellen Merlo, senior vice president for communications at the New York-based company, confirmed that lead agency Leo Burnett in Chicago is in the process of producing such spots, but said no firm decision has been made on whether it will use them to address the issue.
“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 has established a new department in the past several months charged with researching underage smoking and evaluating “what kind of proactive [measures]” the company may elect to take, she said.
PM launched a program called Action Against Access in 1995 to work with retailers on ways to prevent underage smoking and “put more teeth into local laws,” Merlo said. That program continues, but has not involved TV ads. Earlier this year, PM joined with three other tobacco companies–Brown & Williamson, Lorillard and R.J. Reynolds–to fund TV spots lobbying against legislation shepherded by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., that calls for sharply increased tobacco taxes. Not mentioned in the ads–created by Bozell/Eskew in Washington, D.C.–is the legislation’s proposal for fines against tobacco companies if underage smoking does not decline to predetermined levels.
Separately, Burnett is handling test marketing for PM’s Accord “cigarette smoking system.” The product, which became available last week at a handful of retailers in Richmond, Va., is designed to capture smoke and ash from a burning cigarette. Users can insert special Accord cigarettes into the small lighter, which lights the cigarette with each puff and captures so-called “sidestream smoke” and ash. Retailing for $39.95, the system includes the battery-powered lighter and a carton of Accord cigarettes. Burnett’s work on the product includes only point-of-purchase merchandise, Merlo said.
PM spent $212 million on cigarette advertising in the U.S. in 1997, according to Competitive Media Reporting. Burnett works for PM in 55 countries as global agency of record for the Marlboro, Chesterfield, L&M, Merit and Virginia Slims brands.