(Reuters) – At Germany’s Bambi Awards for the media trade in November, celebrities posed for red-carpet photographs in opposition to a backdrop of established luxurious manufacturers. Alongside the likes of Mercedes-Benz and Swiss watchmaker Chopard was a more moderen identify: IQOS, a “lowered danger” heated-tobacco machine offered by cigarette maker Philip Morris Worldwide Inc.
FILE PHOTO: A screenshot reveals Un Caffe Michalovce in Slovakia selling itself as an ÒIQOS Pleasant PlaceÓ in an Instagram put up January 26, 2018, a technique that Philip Morris Worldwide Inc markets the machine. Un Caffe Michalovce by way of REUTERS.
Throughout Europe, Asia and South America, the tobacco agency has affixed the IQOS model to music festivals and artwork reveals. The corporate additionally markets by means of IQOS lounges at mountainside resorts within the Pyrenees and in modern neighborhoods of Rome. All through Europe, it has partnered with “IQOS pleasant” bars and eating places – closed to cigarettes however open to IQOS.
Such promotions are a part of a wide-ranging “normalization” technique by Philip Morris (PM.N) to wash its picture as a purveyor of cancer-causing cigarettes and current its new smoking options as youthful, upscale life-style merchandise, in line with a ten-month research by tobacco researchers at Stanford College, who shared it completely with Reuters earlier than its launch on Friday. The advertising and marketing technique mimics that of tobacco corporations within the mid-20th century, once they began associating cigarettes with Hollywood and excessive society.
“Philip Morris, as an organization identify, is considerably of a pariah,” mentioned Robert Jackler, a professor who led the research and heads Stanford’s Analysis into the Affect of Tobacco Promoting. “IQOS is an try and sanitize their product line.”
The Stanford researchers mentioned their research was spurred partly by a Could 2019 Reuters investigation that discovered Philip Morris had used younger on-line personalities, together with a 21-year-old girl in Russia, to advertise IQOS. The corporate’s inner advertising and marketing requirements prohibit it from utilizing youth-oriented celebrities or “fashions who’re or look like below the age of 25.” The Reuters report prompted the corporate to acknowledge it had violated its personal coverage and to droop its use of social media influencers.
The Stanford research discovered that, though the corporate suspended its “most seen” social-media influencer applications, IQOS advertising and marketing continues to stray considerably from its company requirements on youth-oriented advertising and marketing.
“Its use of youth-oriented social media channels, stylish pop music festivals and superstar influencers are mis-aligned with their dedication to unique ‘grownup smoker’ concentrating on,” the Stanford report concluded.
(For the total report, see: right here )
Philip Morris declined to reply detailed questions from Reuters on its IQOS advertising and marketing technique and the Stanford findings, saying it didn’t have entry to the total report. “Nevertheless, we doubt that there’s something PMI might say or do this Dr. Jackler, and others who criticize our scientific dedication and smoke-free imaginative and prescient, would ever discover passable.”
The IQOS machine is central to the agency’s efforts to overtake its picture by means of such initiatives as its “unsmoke” marketing campaign, which promotes such “smoke-free” options as a solution to speed up the shift away from cigarettes. The machine heats up however doesn’t burn packages of ground-up tobacco, which resemble small cigarettes, to create a nicotine-filled aerosol that’s just like that produced by e-cigarettes, which warmth flavored liquid nicotine.
At this yr’s Davos World Financial Discussion board in Switzerland – a gathering of a few of the world’s richest folks – Philip Morris arrange an “Unsmoke your thoughts” lounge, the place panelists argued in opposition to laws stopping “reality in advertising and marketing” by tobacco companies seeking to promote smoking options.
IQOS is offered in about 50 international locations, together with america by means of a partnership with U.S. Marlboro maker Altria Group Inc. The 2 corporations pledged to regulators that they’d market the machine solely to grownup people who smoke, displaying pattern ads of adults conservatively wearing enterprise apparel.
However in different markets the world over, the Stanford research mentioned, Philip Morris makes use of “coaches” and “ambassadors” to market IQOS. In Romania and Russia, employment companies recruit engaging girls as younger as 19 to market IQOS, in line with job postings talked about within the Stanford report and reviewed by Reuters.
Instagram postings for Be Like Me, a Romanian advertising and marketing company, present younger girls posing with the IQOS machine in current months, usually sporting robe-like uniforms in malls. The Instagram account for RBT Group, a staffing company in Russia that markets IQOS, equally reveals photographs of engaging younger girls in entrance of IQOS indicators or posing with different “coaches.”
Be Like Me and RBT Group couldn’t be reached for remark.
Different Instagram accounts with the “IQOS” identify, together with one known as “iqostyle.arm,” primarily based in Armenia, proceed to point out younger girls posing with the IQOS in what look like skilled pictures. One picture on that account from final July – two months after Philip Morris mentioned it had suspended all influencer advertising and marketing – confirmed Nika Shuvalova, a 22-year-old Ukrainian mannequin, posing in a swimsuit on a ship with an IQOS.
Shuvalova couldn’t be reached for remark.
A message despatched to the “iqostyle.arm” Instagram account was returned by somebody calling themselves Tiko, who mentioned the IQOS postings have been a “pastime” and that he had not been paid by Philip Morris.
BIG BET ON IQOS AND ‘NORMALIZATION’
The stakes for Philip Morris are enormous: The corporate invested $6 billion in creating “smoke-free” merchandise corresponding to IQOS in hopes of staving off a development of declining international cigarette gross sales. In 2018, firm CEO Andre Calantzopoulos informed shareholders that it hoped to obtain about 40% of its income – practically $20 billion – from “lowered danger” merchandise by 2025.
Inner Philip Morris paperwork underscore the significance of its bigger technique: “Make ‘normalization’ a PMI precedence and imbed this mindset into the group,” learn an inner firm doc from 2014, reviewed by Reuters as a part of a 2017 investigation. The doc additionally cited “the threats posed by PMI/trade de-normalization” – corresponding to lobbying bans and exclusions from worldwide treaties and commerce agreements – “and the necessity to reverse this development to drive future development.”
The Stanford researchers pointed to wide-ranging firm efforts to affiliate IQOS with style, artwork and well-liked tradition in a means that cigarette manufacturers corresponding to Marlboro have been unable to do, given altering social attitudes and legal guidelines around the globe that prohibit such promoting and promotions.
IQOS has been current at occasions corresponding to Germany’s Bambi Awards – which honor stars in TV and movie, sports activities, artwork and music – in addition to that nation’s Playboy Playmate of the Yr Awards.
Philip Morris labored with British sculptor Alex Chinneck on a dramatic set up on the 2019 Milan Design Week. The work depicted the facade of an previous, two-story constructing being unzipped like a pair of denims – meant to indicate the IQOS “notion of opening the long run,” the sculptor mentioned in an interview with FAD journal. A consultant of Chinneck confirmed the partnership.
The corporate additionally labored with distinguished industrial designer Karim Rashid to create an set up on the earlier yr’s Milan Design Week. In an interview with web site fashionrepublik.com, Rashid described his set up, displaying two faces assembly each other, as just like the IQOS, which he known as “an intimate machine that speaks to forward-thinking and unique expression.” A consultant of Rashid mentioned he was unavailable for an interview on Thursday.
GETTING TOBACCO BACK INTO RESTAURANTS, BARS
The corporate has additionally sought to tell apart IQOS from smoking by means of partnerships with eating places, bars and salons who designate themselves as “IQOS pleasant” areas, the place cigarettes are banned however the IQOS machine is allowed. The Stanford researchers discovered proof of a whole lot of “IQOS pleasant” institutions in locations such because the Czech Republic, Ukraine, Romania and Japan.
Philip Morris didn’t reply to questions on its enterprise relationships with the institutions that promote the machine and show its branding.
The Stanford researchers and different consultants say such insurance policies undermine public smoking legal guidelines and encourage twin use of cigarettes and different gadgets. Many customers will proceed smoking outside, however flip to e-cigarettes or IQOS the place they’re permitted indoors. Such switching can “deepen nicotine habit and make cessation much less possible,” the Stanford report mentioned.
The model additionally had a presence at a Tel Aviv College pupil music pageant final yr – the place the minimal age for entrance was 16, and the place a video confirmed younger IQOS employees at a pop-up sales space.
At a launch get together for IQOS in Albania final yr, a performer in an elaborate white sequined gown did an interpretive dance on stage with an IQOS, whereas one other performer hooked up to wires carried out acrobatic strikes within the air whereas taking part in a violin.
“They’re making an attempt very arduous to resurrect the glory period of smoking, the place it was glamorous and complex and trendy,” Jackler mentioned. “It’s about associating it with all the nice issues in life.”
Reporting by Chris Kirkham; Enhancing by Brian Thevenot