Tuesday, September 18, 2012


I had toyed with posting on this, but the excellent post at friend of this blogger From the Morgue today prompted me to add to the noise.

Right now in NZ, British American Tobacco is running a hugely expensive, verging on defending-the-indefensible-gonzo attempted saturation TV, print and street campaign against the proposed plain-packaging of cigarette packets, centred around their branding designs being intellectual property. More specifically they are framing it around the right to "own" and use that intellectual property (or more correctly, the profits that result from it), and whether or not you agree or disagree with them.

Beyond the "why" questions that Morgue astutely raises, I've never seen a campaign that evoked such instant visceral disgust in me once I realised what it was for, and the angle it was taking. I hope the ad-creatives that came up with it feel good about managing their impossible brief, a brief you'd expect to see as a joke on a comedy show. "We know our product is harmful, but we want to retain the ability to make it attractive to you anyway". Every part of it reads like some amoral black-comedy movie script; I'd laugh but it's already beyond satire. Their arguments aren't all that strong, especially the ones about plain packaging other products (ironically using the example of wine in one ad. Evidently they have never heard of cleanskins). BAT wants to own what it creates? How about owning addiction, emphysema and cancer?

Not content to leave BAT to it's WTF-ery, Imperial Tobacco right here in my home town has been giving away free cigarettes to it's factory workers under the guise of 'quality control'. I work in quality assurance, and this is so far from being valid as part of a robust quality system that again it would be funny if only it were a joke. It isn't a quality system I would want to be any professional part of, beyond my pondering it a little while ago, and not being able to think of any reason I'd knowingly work for a tobacco company.

I know I'm not supposed to be biased, but this is personal. I watched my father-in-law die a long and drawn out death, literally watched him take his last breath, from a smoking related illness. My daughters will never meet him, or know him beyond stories about what a good man he was. I've never smoked, or even wanted to besides a few puffs in my late teens in a failed attempt to discern what the attraction was. People have a right to choose to smoke, just I I have a right to choose to hate smoking and the way it is marketed. BAT can take their intellectual property, Imperial their free cigarettes, and fuck right off.