It’s been several years since tobacco advertising and sponsorship has been banned and along with the expanding bans on smoking in restaurants and bars the means and ways to communicate their brand messages are becoming more clever and indirect.

In the mid-90’s I was in Singapore for a week and couldn’t help but notice that Dunhill was being advertised everywhere – but not the cigarettes, instead Dunhill was in the business of selling luxury goods including watches, luggage and apparel for men. I am not a smoker but couldn’t but help thinking this was a smart marketing decision because not only did Dunhill get to advertise its brand name it also associated itself with an upper class and distinguished class – which is exactly the target audience for the cigarettes. Of course the history of Alfred Dunhill (which is pipes, luxury goods and cigarettes) preceded the ban on tobacco advertising by 100 years but I was unaware of this at the time and wondered why more tobacco companies weren’t diversifying their product offerings in order to circumvent the ban.

More recently the folks at Marlboro have been using bar codes to communicate the brand on Formula 1 race cars. In Fast Company the article shows the before and after pictures of the race car showing the bar code. Although they have since been forced to remove these bar codes it was still an interesting and subversive way to advertise.



In his current Harvard Business Review article, Andrew O’Connell discusses the findings of a recent Journal of Advertising Research study that claims households with DVR’s “showed no decrease in recall or in prompted recognition of commercials among DVR users” who had used the fast forward function. This was especially true for ads that had previously been seen at least once at regular speed.

The article goes on to recommend that advertisers should consider airing their spots on live programming (such as news or sports) to ensure viewers will first have a chance to see the ad at regular speed. After that, viewers who hit the FF on their DVR remotes will have their eyes glued to the screen for the first sign that their program has returned and hence see the speeded up ads along the way. Currently many cable stations are airing spots that only display bold text as a VO drones on and on, but at 3 or 4 x speed it’s a quick, silent read. (And yes, just as boring and lame as ever, but they seem to be getting some results.)

Since the JAR study estimated that 68% of DVR owners skip past commercials, it’s a sure thing that DVR makers, such as TiVo, may soon provide options to skip past entire blocks of commercials in an instant – thus creating more headaches for advertisers.