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Philip Morris suspends social media campaign

A man smokes an iQOS electronic cigarette Philip Morris International Inc.

Akio Kon | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris International has suspended a global marketing strategy for social media in response to requests for the company's use of young online personalities to sell its new "heated tobacco" unit, including a 21-year-old woman in Russia.

The company's internal "marketing standards" prohibit the marketing of tobacco products with youth-oriented celebrities or "models that are or appear to be under 25".

The company told Reuters of the decision late Friday, saying it had launched an internal survey of marketing records and photographs that Reuters sent to the company for comment earlier this week.

They included a paid post that plugs the tobacco product of social media "influencer" Alina Tapilina in Moscow ̵

1; who behaved her age as 21 on Instagram – along with often seductive images of herself drinking wine, swimming and posing with small clothes in luxurious surroundings.

Alina Tapilina, whose social media profile says she is 21 years old, has a "heated tobacco" IQOS unit

"We have made the decision to suspend all of our product-related digital influences globally," the company Reuters. "Although the current influence is a legal age adult smoker, she is under the age of 25 and our guidance required influence to be twenty-five. This was a clear breach of that guidance."

"No laws were broken," the company told Reuters. "However, we set high standards for ourselves, and these facts do not deny that we do not meet these standards in this case."

The company added, "We were deeply disappointed to discover this breach and are grateful that it was brought to our attention."

Last year, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decided it would allow sales by the IQOS unit in the United States after a two-year review process where Philip Morris repeatedly assured the regulator that it would warn young people away from the product.

The FDA refused to comment on Friday night about Philip Morris's decision to suspend marketing. The agency said earlier that it would "keep an eye on … how the company markets its products."

While most of the social media employed by Philip Morris abroad did not record their ages on Instagram, a Reuters review of the company's social media marketing by IQOS in Japan, Italy, Switzerland, Russia and Romania shows that Tapilina & # 39; s online persona was typical of what the company called its social media "ambassadors" for the unit – railroad thin young women enjoying high life.

The company did not respond directly to further questions Friday night regarding the desired audience for their digital influencer campaigns.

Many of the messages contained hashtag "#IQOSambassador", and bind them to a network of social media influencers that the international tobacco giant has pledged to label IQOS as a safer alternative to cigarettes and a sexy fashion show.

"I finally have the new IQOS 3, and I can safely say yes to change … the level of harmful substances is on average about 90 percent lower than in smoke," wrote Tapilina in an April post. "You haven't yet switched to IQOS?"

A Romanian IQOS marketer is 25 years old, according to his own actress biography, but did not list her age on Instagram. Tapilina and nine other IQOS marketers did not respond to requests for comments.

In his statement to Reuters, Philip Morris stated that the suspension of the social marketing campaign is "concrete evidence" of his conviction of achieving a non-smoking world through socially responsible practices. "

Matthew Myers, president of the tobacco-free campaign, had another listen to the Friday night suspension. The lawyer group collected some of the IQOS marketing images reviewed by Reuters.

Philip Morris said he just changed his behavior When he was caught red-handed.

The company, Myers said, has historically been "the single most successful worldwide to make cigarettes fashionable to young people. "

Happy Valentine's Day!

Over the past year, Philip Morris has increasingly published his" mission "to prevent young people from using tobacco products. Last month, it issued a release requesting that all tobacco and tobacco products e-cigarette companies will do their part to protect against the use of nicotine by young people.

"Let me be clear: We at Philip Morris International do not, and will not, market or sell our products to youth," says CEO André Calantzopoulos under a speech in Boston earlier this month. "For Philip Morris International, age."

When Philip Morris sent marketing plans with an FDA application for IQOS in 2017, examples presented the ads models that were at least ten years old and had modest, professional

That application, which is still awaited before the FDA, seeks approval to market IQOS as less harmful than to smoke and outlines the company's plans to ensure that it does not market leads the unit to "non-mental audience". The device heats up, but does not burn packets of baked tobacco, similar to small cigarettes, to create a nicotine-filled aerosol.

In Japan, the targeted audience for IQOS marketing includes the Instagram followers of Ayame Tachibana, a 27-year-old DJ and model. In one post, she presents a Valentine's Day message for the IQOS device, lovingly scrawled with multicolored pens.

"Happy Valentine IQOS. Love you so much!" reads the Instagram post from February.

Ayame Tachibana, a 27-year-old Japanese model, shows a Valentine's Day card for IQOS

Alina Eremia, a Romanian actress and singer, holds a gold-colored IQOS in front of a Christmas tree.

"My list of resolutions contains 95% fewer moments without smiles," says Eremia, 25, according to her actress biography on several movie and celebrity information sites.

Philip Morris says IQOS – an acronym for "I quit regular smoking" – contains up to 95 percent fewer toxic substances than cigarettes.

Vlad Parvulescu, head of Eremia, confirmed that she had been hired to promote IQOS and said she had been contacted by a Romanian agency. He did not respond to several questions about the economic event.

Marketing agreements between companies and social media are influencing, according to industry experts. But usually, a company will work through third-party promotional or advertising agencies that relate to online personalities. Compensation usually ranges from $ 20 to $ 25,000 or more for each post.

Companies have become increasingly sophisticated in approaching social media campaigns over the past two years, says Joe Gagliese, co-founder of Viral Nation, a marketing and talent agency that works with influencers.

He once had to explain the basic concept of "influencer" in pitch meetings. Now, companies are approaching themselves with "custom-made decision-making that says," this is exactly what we want. ""

Reuters reviewed dozens of social media posts with the IQOS device. Many have included hashtags like #IQOSAmbassador, #paidad and #notriskfree, indicating that they are IQOS marketing posts.

Alina Eremia, a Romanian actress and songs whose biography gives her age as 25, has a gold-colored IQOS device in front of a Christmas tree

Many of the Instagram influencers with the products had tens of thousands of followers and some had more than a million.

Viral Campaigns, Unclear Lines

Units like IQOS and Juul hold potential as a way for cigarette smokers to turn to less harmful nicotine products, but some folks are concerned that the slender new entities rely on young people who had never smoked. cigarettes. Among the traditional cigarette smokers, 90 percent start smoking before 18 years, according to federal data.

Philip Morris said there have been "no reports" on "worrying levels" of accidental use of IQOS.

As part of the FDA audit process, Philip Morris promised to market only adult cigarette smokers as it begins selling IQOS this summer through a partnership with Altria Group Inc, which sells Marlboro cigarettes in the United States. IQOS delivers about the same level of nicotine as a traditional cigarette.

Altria did not respond to requests for comment.

Social media marketing has become a hot spot in the debate on the regulation of tobacco products, especially the latest generation of products such as the popular Juul e-cigarettes.

Some of Juul's early social media and YouTube marketing included pictures of attractive young people, especially at a product launch party in 2015. Twitter photos from that time on Juul's official account contained sensual images of a young woman who breathed Juul steam into a group next to the slogan "Share a #Julemoment."

These early campaigns were an explosion of video and image postings from youths who use the product at school or with friends, often under hashtags # doit4juul or #juullife. Juul Labs Inc has since said it stopped using social media influencers and requires someone in their ads to be a former cigarette smoker older than 35 years.

Juul Labs Inc said in a statement that it recognized that "some of our earliest marketing initiatives do not fully reflect our company's goal," which it describes as helping cigarette smokers transition to their products.

"As a young company, we learned from our experience and introduced changes to ensure we only reach current adult smokers," the company said.

Conditional approval

U.S. The law on tobacco advertising – which is banned on radio and television – was prepared long before social media and digital advertising became a dominant force in consumer marketing.

Although no current state or federal law restricts tobacco advertising on the Internet – including for e-cigarettes and devices such as IQOS – the FDA can use its authority over new entities to claim civilian control over the company's marketing.

As a condition for the unit to be sold, the FDA requires Philip Morris to provide detailed information analysis of consumer age groups through digital advertising. Philip Morris is also required to submit new promotional campaigns, including digital and social media, to the FDA for at least 30 days before planning to launch them.

All paid influences that market the product must also disclose "any relationship between you and entities that mark, advertise, market and / or promote the products, on your behalf or in your direction."

These rules are intended to In limiting youth access to tobacco marketing, the FDA stated in a statement "especially in shared digital features such as social media."

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