Don’t blame the tobacco brands, blame the parents.

The recent Sun story about a
2 year old, Ardi Rizal from an Indonisia fishing village, smoking 40 a day
no doubt fuelled anti smoking groups and attacks on cigarette brands. But this
is not a case where you can blame the brands or us, the advertising industry,
as is so often the case. There is no subversive advertising to babies going on,
not even in the wildest imagination of an extreme anti smoker.

• However, Matthew Myers of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free
Kids in America said, “This reflects a pervasive problem in many
low-income countries where tobacco companies market their products to an
uneducated public.” Sorry Mathew, even I don’t agree that cigarette
companies are targeting 18 month old children, or encouraging their screwed up
parents to feed their babies fags.

• The story itself is a
shocking case of a weak pathetic mother and a stupid and abusive father, a
fishmonger. He gave the kid a cigarette at just 18 months – why would you do
that? He prepares and lights the cigarettes himself for the kid and sees
nothing wrong. Obviously an IQ
that’s the same number as the number of cigarettes his baby smokes.

• The mother claims the kid
gets upset if he doesn’t get his fix,
totally addicted. If he doesn’t get cigarettes, he gets angry and screams and
batters his head against the wall. He tells me he feels dizzy and sick.” Well
bashing your head against the wall does make you feel dizzy and sick. All
kids have tantrums (the terrible twos, the troublesome
threes….) but good parents manage them not give in to them.

• They also give him too
much food looking at how over weight he is. The kid’s a pig.

• It’s amazing though how
reality is far more powerful than advertising fantasy. Despite many anti-smoking
campaigns, nothing has outraged the world as much as a 2 year old puffing away
like an adult. I imagine cigarette bosses are all meeting with their PR
agencies, trying to work out how to suppress the story. Meanwhile, anti smoking
groups are trying to exploit it.

• Personally, as an
anti-smoker, I refuse to work on
cigarettes though was happy to work on BJ Cunningham’s Death brand many years
ago, because it does what it says on the packet!

• The product got pulled off
shelves by the pressure applied by cigarette companies because it was a bad ad
for cigarettes. Eventually, bending the rules, Custom & Excise shut the
operation down, unfortunately just as we were going into production with an ad
that probably would have created a worldwide stir.

• BJ is an eccentric
entrepreneur, a very smart businessman and loves publicity. His brief, the
dream brief, do something amazing that will get talked about and lots of

• After weeks we came up with
a simple idea, the last moments of JF Kennedy – rewritten. What, we thought,
would have happened if a cigarette saved your life, not took it?

• We managed to get the rights
to use the original Zapruder film (owned by Life magazine) that shows him being
shot. The idea was to re-shoot the last moments with a twist. As JFK is going
through the fatal
Dealey Plaza he takes a packet of cigarettes from his pocket. He puts one in his
mouth and lights it but then accidently drops the packet on the floor. He bends
down to pick it up as the shots are fired and miss him. He rises, this time
alive, and waves to the crowds as he heads under the bridge. Strap line, There
is life after Death.

• One hungry production
company offered to make the film for a £1. Another withdrew after one of the
partners feared getting shot, well JFK is an icon and there are lots of
patriotic nuts about. I guess had it been made it would have sold a lot of
Death but probably caused so much outrage cigarette companies would have tried
to stop it airing.

• A few years on I still like
the idea of selling cigarettes in a way that sells less cigarettes. Ironic

• 2 year old smoking on

In The Sun

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  • Andy White

    “Slag of all snacks” was fantastic work. I wouldn’t eat a Pot Noodle if you held a gun at my head but would have happily pinned those ads to my wall.

  • john p woods

    But nobody seems to be addressing the reason(s) that 90% of ad work now appears to be *shit*. C’mon guys (& dolls) can’t you do something about it?

  • Simon Guest

    Steve, as Dave Trott says “without impact nothing else happens”. It’s only when an ad surprises and delights us do we take notice. The Lynx Peace ad had that effect on me when I saw it last night. Pot Noddle definitely had that effect and the ads are still remembered now.