Moving stories with charismatic actors are a powerful way to attract new smokers and keep current smokers.
Tobacco companies turned to Hollywood to place their brands on screen without the audience knowing. Today, movies that show a tobacco brand are also more likely to include smoking in their TV ads, undercutting the 1970 ban when TV advertising of tobacco brands was prohibited.
Marlboros have featured in at least seventy-four of Hollywood’s top-grossing movies over the past fifteen years. Studies show that brands showing up on screen most often are also the most heavily-advertised in other media.
Insider documents reveal that both Brown and Williamson and RJ Reynolds (both now part of British American Tobacco) worried that Philip Morris did a better job of getting its brands, like Marlboro, into the movies. An RJ Reynolds marketing analyst outlined why smoking in the movies is so important to the tobacco industry:
“The medium is the message, and the message would be right — part of the show. How different from being the Corporate Moneybags or pushing samples in the lobby. It’s the difference between B&W [Brown and Williamson Tobacco] doing commercials in movie houses and Marlboro turning up in the movies.
“Pull, not push. Nobody tells them the ‘answer,’ they just know. Not ‘why are you smoking that?’ but ‘I saw that video — can I try one?’ If they feel like wearing the badge, they’ll buy it. Like magic.
“Right now, Marlboro has all the magic. And I’m curious how they got it. Certainly legal eyebrows would raise at any direct arrangement for Marlboro’s omnipresence in FUBYAS [young smokers] media. In fact, I read recently about a PMer [Philip Morris executive] who was confronted about Marlboro’s movie appearances and gave some cagey response like ‘Lets just say no money changed hands.’ Perhaps TEM could find out how such things magically happen for Marlboro. They don’t need the magic, but we do — unless we are prepared to wait years for the buzz, much less the payoff on the bottom line.”