RAI Returns to TV Advertising to Promote Vuse

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- After a 43-year hiatus, Reynolds American Inc. (RAI) is returning to television -- but this time, its advertising doesn't include cartoons.

In an effort to promote its new Vuse electronic cigarette, RAI will debut a 60-second television ad that focuses on the technology of the product, according to a report by Bloomberg. The commercial is intended to call attention to e-cigarettes, which are currently being assessed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

"This is no Joe Camel fun with people out partying," Laura Ries, co-founder of Ries & Ries, an Atlanta-based marketing firm, told the news outlet. "It's high-tech, smart and savvy, an almost clinical approach to the scientific delivery of nicotine."

R.J. Reynolds Vapor Co., a subsidiary of RAI, spent more than five years developing Vuse and started selling it in July in a Colorado test market -- the first phase of its national rollout. The product is aimed at tobacco users trying e-cigarettes for the first time or those who are unsatisfied with the flavor and nicotine delivery of products already on the market, Stephanie Cordisco, president of R.J. Reynolds Vapor Co., told the news outlet.

Cordisco added that customers "aren't looking for celebrity endorsements; they're looking for a product that works." She may be referring to commercials for competitor Lorrilard Inc.'s blu eCigs, which have featured actor Stephen Dorff and TV personality Jenny McCarthy.

The Vuse commercial is produced by CHI & Partners in London and opens on the sun rising over a spinning Earth. Against a backdrop of futuristic images and music, a male voice says, "Tomorrow needs a spark, something to move us forward. It's time smoking changed forever. Welcome to Vuse."

Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids in Washington, D.C., told Bloomberg that the Vuse commercial isn't the worst he has seen in advertising e-cigarettes, but he said it still promotes smoking among a broader audience.

"It is a more sophisticated ad that is less blatant in targeting young people and non-smokers than many of the others we have seen," Myers said. "It does glamorize smoking. It does make the act of smoking Vuse a 21st century activity clearly designed to appeal to a broader public than committed smokers."

In 1971, anti-smoking groups saw a major victory when the U.S. government banned cigarette ads from the airwaves. Reynolds was one company that had utilized popular culture to promote its brand -- from Barney and Fred smoking Winstons on the "Flinstones" to Joe Camel, who was its advertising mascot for most of the 1990s.

Now in 2013, Reynolds is approaching television advertising with more caution. The company plans to run the TV commercial late at night and at other times when adults make up at least 85 percent of the viewership, Cordisco stated. She did not elaborate on the exact time slots or TV shows, however.

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