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Philip Morris brand


  Philip Morris
Philip Morris
by Charlotte Jane Dyson
July 8, 2002

Cigarettes can kill you. Everyone knows that. Yet despite the risk, millions of people light up for a nicotine hit everyday. But, because of both moral issues and legal guidelines, marketing products to these consumers is a tough task. Ask Phillip Morris.

Philip Morris has the unenviable task of producing a website which must attract and engage users.

There’s just one stipulation -- it cannot in any way, advertise, promote or market its cigarette brands. On top of the restriction not to promote, they limit themselves by enforcing a company mission to not use their website to entice youngsters into the perils of smoking. The pressure could be enough to drive one to a second pack each day. So how does Philip Morris approach its website within these confines?

The answer has been to create a site dominated by text. In fact, upon opening the site you would be forgiven for thinking you had opened a newspaper.

Philip Morris Since the site cannot promote the company’s products, Philip Morris has made it a spot to share information, rather than a web-based promo piece. The site’s content discusses tobacco-related issues and offers competing views on smoking. The homepage presents a range of topics including smoking in public places, FDA regulations and a feature on youth smoking prevention – clearly sensitive issues. But can the website succeed in being informative in a manner which is both relevant to the brands and credible as an objective information source?

An entire heading is dedicated to the issue of smoking in public places. Non-smokers are pretty much aware by now that passive smoke can increase their risk of lung cancer, heart disease and asthma. Philip Morris, though, is keen to point out that non-smokers and smokers alike have the right to choose. This is a theme that runs throughout the site, as well as in this section. To limit the exposure of second-hand smoke, Philip Morris is researching and investing in ventilation and air-conditioning equipment to be used in public places, as well as participating in an ongoing program to educate business owners, hospital workers, etc., on the options available. According to Philip Morris, gasping for clean air will soon be a thing of the past.

In the Tobacco Issues section, there is a wide range of topics covered including youth smoking, health issues and quitting smoking. For advice on quitting you are directed to a another site,, but not before being reminded that the reasons we smoke cover a wide range of complex behaviors – psychological, physiological, cognitive and social.

The article on youth smoking is interesting and pivotal to the site’s credibility. A bold statement by Philip Morris says that the company does not want kids to smoke. They even recognize that their sincerity might be questioned and therefore request that site visitors judge them by their actions (although based on recent top-secret corporate documents that premise is a bit suspect). However, throughout the website, Philip Morris emphasizes the steps they take to limit youth smoking with grants for after-school activities and programs to educate youngsters about the risks of smoking. Surprisingly, their program and investment of US$ 100 million is not the main thrust of the article on youth smoking.

While their intentions to provide a responsible and informative site are admirable (and of course, wholly necessary) the company has some bold and arguably unrealistic goals. It states that it will advertise only to adults, but what can it do, blindfold all youngsters? It wants to reduce the environmental impact of smoking, but smoke is a pollutant and as long as smokers are lighting up, it will impact the environment. It wants to communicate the health risks involved with smoking, but by doing so it’s encouraging people not to purchase its products. Smoking is a risky business, as is producing a site that attempts to discuss all the issues related to smoking without publicizing its products or bringing to the forefront the fact that it’s simply best not to smoke.


Charlotte Jane Dyson is a marketing consultant. She lives in Yorkshire, England, and spent fourteen years in consumer marketing with Nestlé.

*Due to the constantly changing environment of websites, some reviews may no longer reflect the current website for this brand.
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