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No-one should be fooled by Philip Morris’ global rebranding strategy: Creative agencies are urged to Quit Big Tobacco

June 19, 2019 (New York, USA) — Vital Strategies today issued the following statement in reaction to Philip Morris International being featured in Cannes Lions Festival’s “Good” track, which is supposed to promote work that “makes the world a better place.” The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity is considered the world’s biggest gathering for the creative marketing and communications community, with seminars, networking opportunities and the prestigious Cannes Lions Awards.

Vital Strategies Senior Vice President, Sandra Mullin, said:

“The inclusion of Philip Morris International in Cannes Lions as a ‘Good Track’ organization alongside the likes of Sesame Street, UN Women and Greenpeace is puzzling at best and deeply troubling at worst. What are the Cannes organizers thinking? PMI and other tobacco companies cause a worldwide toll of more than 7 million deaths a year. Their inclusion in this program is all the more ironic, as their main purpose remains to market products that also harm children, women and the environment – the very causes with which they are sharing a track.

“Their appearance at Cannes is a calculated effort by a deservedly maligned industry to remain relevant and to continue to thrive. They are positioning their latest marketing strategy as a conscience-driven, reputation-refurbishing mission of working towards a ‘smoke free world.’ This, despite the fact that they will produce 800 billion cigarettes in 2019, a testament to their empty rhetoric and their disregard for health.

“It’s a shame that Cannes organizers fell for PMI’s disguise. PMI is the opposite of social good: they continue to promote cigarettes to children, market flavored cigarettes, and aggressively market their products near schools.

“We urge creative agencies who care about doing good, and not perpetuating an industry whose products addict, sicken and kill, to not believe the hype and to Quit Big Tobacco.”

The Cannes Lions Good Track

According to Cannes organizers, the festival’s “Good” track is “where we shine a spotlight on life-changing work and initiatives which make the world a better place.” Other organizations in the Good track include Greenpeace, Sesame Workshop, UN Women, and Change the Ref. This means PMI is sharing a track with Greenpeace when the tobacco industry is highly polluting and a cause of deforestation. It’s sharing a track with Sesame Workshop when it works to addict youth to tobacco, for the sake of profit, and fights smokefree laws that protect children. It’s sharing a track with Change The Ref, when tobacco kills more than 7 million people every year.

Quit Big Tobacco

Launched in March 2018, the Quit Big Tobacco campaign urges organizations to pledge not to work with the tobacco industry, or the advertising and PR companies that help big tobacco market its products. When companies are increasingly judged for their values, Quit Big Tobacco provides businesses with a great opportunity to showcase that they stand for health. More than 250 agencies and brands have already signed on to the campaign—brand, advertising and PR leaders like CVS Health, Truth Initiative, Crispin Porter Bogusky, MDC Partners, Edelman, GSD&M and many more. To learn more about the Quit Big Tobacco campaign and to sign the pledge, visit: www.quitbigtobacco.org

For more information about Vital Strategies’ work on tobacco control, visit https://www.vitalstrategies.org/programs/tobacco-control/

About Vital Strategies

Vital Strategies is a global health organization that believes every person should be protected by a strong public health system. We work with governments and civil society in 73 countries to design and implement evidence-based strategies that tackle their most pressing public health problems. Our goal is to see governments adopt promising interventions at scale as rapidly as possible. To find out more, please visit www.vitalstrategies.org or Twitter @VitalStrat.