Philip Morris International: How PR works for a tobacco brand that can’t be marketed

Working in an industry such as tobacco with its tight laws and regulations, and in many countries having a complete ban on marketing and advertising, is never easy.

In a fireside chat with Deepa Balji, executive director of marketing and communications at Publicis Groupe, APAC, Middle East and Africa, at Marketing’s PR Asia 2018 conference, Richard James, vice-president of corporate affairs, North and Northeast Asia at Philip Morris International (PMI), shared that over the years many in the advertising field have stayed away from working with the brand simply because of the products it produces. “There was very limited interest from the creative industries in working with us, and even up until today, some will refuse to work with us,” he said.

But to change the dynamic, the brand made its way to Cannes this year to change the conversation around Philip Morris International’s science and engagement. It announced a bold call to action for the creative, media and communications communities to embrace its ongoing commitment to creating a smoke-free world. As part of this initiative, PMI also offered smoke-free alternatives wherever they could, including heated tobacco products and e-cigarettes, to smokers in the industry who would otherwise continue to smoke.

During a keynote at the PMI Science Lounge at Cannes, Philip Morris’ SVP of communications Marian Salzman said it wanted to urge the creative community to join PMI in raising awareness of the potential of science, technology and innovation for those who smoke and the people around them. He added the move was part of PMI’s vision to lead the charge towards greater innovation and technology in the tobacco industry, all of which is backed by science.

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