Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Would you like to have a Drag, please?

Me (almost an ex smoker) & my father (an ex smoker) went to watch the now iconic ‘Munnabhai….’ last Sunday in one of those glossy multiplexes. To collect the tickets (done through tele-booking), we reached 45 mins in advance. This gave us some time to appreciate the newly done interiors of the theater. While doing so, my eyes came across something, which didn’t have much to appreciate in it…on the contrary, it demanded criticism and that’s the reason why I am writing this.

What was that ‘something’?
A beautifully laid out, softly lit, glassy and classy kiosk of a considerable size in a conspicuous corner. The ones that you would think should be displaying/selling branded jwellery, perfumes, international chocolates or exotic teas.

The displayed items were all the brands of CIGARETTES made by the house of ITC, laid out like designer watches or Swarovsky crystals. On the front were two A4 sheet saying ‘NOT FOR BELOW 18’ & ‘SMOKING IS INJURIOUS TO HEALTH’

Criticism:
Selling cigarettes in such a seductive manner in a public place like a Multiplex is incorrect. Kids and teenager with impressionable minds frequent these places, more than adults and the chances of them getting drawn towards visually attractive stalls is pretty high (in fact, I saw that happening). Considering that cigarettes on their own hold youngsters (at least of the male variety) fancy, a glossy way of displaying/selling them will further damage the situation and build a society with perhaps a higher number of smokers than what it would have been without that kiosk.

Cinemax must be pocketing a huge amount by selling this space to ITC, which in turn is getting these potential customers. Both these houses need a lesson in Social Responsibility. Putting up two A4s, way below the eye-level (can be read only by learned toddlers) saying something, which means nothing isn’t exactly Social Responsibility.

These corporates should be following what my father’s response to the situation was. If they have to sell cigarettes in this page 3 manner, they should also put up a full-size skeleton of a human being with a cigarette in his mouth and saying, ‘This is what happens to a smoker’. Sounds logical, eh?

Postscript:
Some of you might be thinking, that coming from a smoker, this piece is hypocritical. But, the fact of the case is that I am absolutely aware of the health hazards involved and hence would not want anyone to take it up. As for me, I’m down to a couple of cigarettes a day and have made a promise to quit it completely once I become a father.

9 comments:

Manali Jagtap said...

I agree with you Meraj.

"India has plugged loopholes in tobacco laws to ban the depiction of smoking in movies and television and to prevent the sale of tobacco products to minors, Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss said here Tuesday." - The Times of India, Wednesday, June 1, 2005

So if smoking is banned in movies then is it ethically right to advertise them in movie halls?

pooja nair said...

I agree too. But if you worked in the agency that held the communication responsibilities of ITC, you would probably have aplauded it as a great idea.

ok perhaps not. but you would def. not have had a choice about it and would continue working in the organization.

I am saying this because of curiosity. Is it in our hands as employees of an ad agency to refuse working on certain clients because we believe it is unethical?

My agency handles GTC. Fortunately, I have not been asked to plan for it. But will surely face the diliama if asked to. i had to work and travel to villages when pitching for Monsanto. A company the products of which may have adverse effects on the ecological balance. But everyone was so excited about the scale of the client's media spends that no one adressed the ethical aspect.

We are all nice people mind you - don't mean any harm to anybody. So, what does one do?

meraj said...

thanks Manali! i missed out on that very relevant point.

Pooja...as aware, rational and nice human beings our first job is to raise the issue, make a point, put it amidst people in a certain forum for a debate to happen. blogs provide that base to all of us.

gentleman said...

kuch samjhao maalik, kaise controliya rahe ho? idhar toh daily bees sutta phuk rahe hain.

meraj said...

its easy for me, gentleman...zaroorat hi mehsoos nahin hoti.

sirf jaam ke saath ek-do laga leta hoon...bada mazaa aata hai!

pooja said...

You say you'll quit completely once you become a father. Isn't that the kind of promise every smoker makes? (Anything to delay quiting.)
Why not add to the credibility and quit right away?

meraj said...

absolutely true, Pooja.

its just that it doesnt make a difference to me now so why not keep pullin at one or two a day. but with kids around, it will be a different story. i cantt risk young & tender lungs, you know...

do you get me???

sujata said...

hi meraj,

i absolutely abhor smoking...but lets face it, as a marketer, there's nothing like multiplexes to catch the elusive youngsters and catch em young is what its all about.
To be fair to the companies, their social responsibility ends with the warning message. To ask for no such advertising to be done, is to ask for them to commit suicide and it will be a slow and painful death.
While companies like ITC will still make it through, thanks to diversification, the others will go down kicking and screaming.
there is no right or wrong solution to this issue coz this is an evil we humans created and now it is our personal responsibility to save the young 'uns from it.
Your idea to quit when you become a father is in some way the right way coz what better way to propogate than practising!

cheers!

meraj said...

to my understanding, there is one right...a company of the stature of ITC, should be responsible enough to sell tobacco in a less euphoric way.