Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Similac Ad and the Tobacco Industry: Similar Marketing Strategies

"We think we should start not by raising barriers, but by lowering our voices.  We think smokers and non-smokers can work out their differences together in a spirit of tolerance and fairness and respect for each other's rights and feelings."
--RJ Reynolds 1986 from Strategies of the Tobacco Industry by Larry Breed


"I was interested to read the descriptive names and phrases used to describe those involved in the anti-tobacco movement.  They are 'zealots,' 'anti-smoking agitators,' 'health campaigners,' 'tobacco prohibitionists,' 'overzealous do-gooders' and 'busybodies.'"  Strategies of the Tobacco Industry

"Tobacco's message is free choice."  Strategies of the Tobacco Industry

If the Similac Ad was instead an ad for a specific brand of cigarettes, what would we see and hear?  What music would be in the background?  I envision that it would be Michael Jackson's Billie Jean. My feet start tapping to the beat and the words drift through my mind..."Billie Jean is not my careful of who you love  and be careful of what you do cause the lie becomes the truth."

 I see the playground and the players:  the smokers, and then we see the zealots. The do-gooders pushing through the swings.  "Look,the Tobacco police are here!"  If only smokers and non-smokers would get along because after all this is about civil liberties and free choice.  It's not about health.  It's about choice.  There is no proof that cigarette smoke cause human disease.

All the smokers and non-smokers in my imagined ad start a verbal "rumble." Who's right and who's wrong?  Just as this verbal war reaches a crescendo to the tune of Billie Jean, a smoker accidently drops her lit cigarette into an overflowing trash can.  The trash can ignites and suddenly everyone races to the trash can and together they put the fire out.  See, simple if we would all get along, our problems would be solved!!  

Then across the screen our new mantra is unveiled and the soft soothing background music--the music we hear at the grocery store to keep us soothed and buying-buying.  "No matter what our beliefs, We are people first."   Yep...I believe I believe...we are people!!  

In stark black and white we see the "Brand," the cigarette product doctor's and hospital's recommend.  And then under the "Brand" is #Peoplehood Unite.  

Should we honestly believe that the infant formula industry has no strategy? They are playing the Tobacco Industry playbook.  The playbook that reinforces the self-esteem of the people who are using their product while scapegoating advocates who consider their product a health risk.  This particular ad establishes the credibility of the company as fair players.  Its a playbook we need to understand.  And it's why we absolutely need the WHO Code to regulate the marketing of infant formula.
Copyright 2015 Valerie W. McClain


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