Australia's government thinks it's scored a victory with plain packaging, but tobacco firms will realise it's a marketable look
There's areason why we should admire the ad men of the 1950s. They managed to pull off the trick of making smoking, something fundamentally damaging and disgusting, appear both glamorous andgratifying. According to an American Medical Association report, by the mid-80s even five- and six-year-olds were better at recognising Joe Camel, the mascot of the Camel brand, than they were Mickey Mouse or Barbie.Today over 100,000 people die every year from smoking-related diseases in the UK alone – so we can say with confidence that the ad men did a damn fine job.
After all that hard work, how frustrating forthe Don Drapers of this world that pesky governments and health-conscious pressure groups are trying to blot out the deep allure of smoking forever. Most recently, Australia's highest court has triedto kettle the slow-death smoke parade by giving the green light for an olive revolution in the world of cigarette branding – forcing tobacco companies to remove anything that might hint at a brandidentity, making them instead plump for generic olive-coloured packaging with pictures of cancer-riddled mouths and blinded eyeballs thrown in for good measure.
But you know that's going to backfire,right? In an age where companies use social media to make "friends" with everyone under the sun and consumer loyalty can no longer be bought through traditional top-down, shouty shouty means,de-branding is branding. This is an age where the 90s culture-jamming strategies of Adbusters and No Logo, originally designed to subvert the power of mainstream advertising, have now been gracelessly co-optedand absorbed by … mainstream advertising. Olive green packaging? It's minimal, man. Puss-filled cancer eyeballs? Terror is so in right now.
The trend for the absorption of transgressive pursuits...