In a test of the e-cig industry’s limits, a controversial Vype e-cigarette commercial was banned in the UK recently.
The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority deemed the messaging as too likely to suggest that electronic cigarettes are smoking cessation devices, something that e-cigarette brands are barred from advertising.
After a long absence of cigarette advertising, some see e-cigarette ads as bringing back the old tactics of big tobacco, with sleek and sexy commercials to attract users. Vype may have played into this fear with their well-produced commercial, bringing a backlash that may have happened regardless of the quality and message of the ad.
The launch of the Vype commercial set off many discussions related to cigarette advertising, seeing this as the dawn in a new era that is different but similar than the old cigarette commercials paradigm. There were particularly scathing opinions like the one here that popped up soon after the Vype commercial began running.
Ms. Mahdawi simplify vilifies, not only the Vype commercial itself, but e-cigarette advertising and, really, electronic cigarettes themselves. It is one thing when the public starts seeing the vapor-creating devices everywhere they look; it is another when they begin seeing e-cigarette brands on TV. Something in that touches a nerve for those weary of e-cigarettes, fearing a return to an era with increased smoking rates.
Those that don’t see all the positives in e-cigarettes also fail to differentiate between smoking and vaping. Being a viable alternative to cigarettes, e-cigs can actually help the smoking rate go down, a number that has failed to drop significantly in many years now. At the very least, cigarette smokers deserve a choice. For that to happen, they need to find about these devices from one avenue or another, with advertising serving as best tool to reach a large audience. If you take that away, you do a disservice to consumers and consumer choice.
Back when the controversy over the Vype commercial was in full swing, there were some e-cigarette supporters that came out of the woodwork too.
That’s the silver lining when strong emotions and arguments are made – it will spark supporters to speak up and stand up for what they believe in as well. Rory Sutherland did just that in a very well written piece for The Drum.
Mr. Sutherland is a legendary advertising executive in the UK who has tracked the growth of many new industries in his time.
With regard to electronic cigarettes, he calls them a “disruptive innovation” because of the power they have to make a significant change in the market.
These type of technological outbursts have to be given a chance to develop and expand so they can be perfected, which is the stage we are in now in the electronic cigarette industry.
This brings us back to the Vype TV commercial, which is trying to spread the word about electronic cigarettes in its own way (for its own financial gain of course). While there may be some similarities to cigarette advertising in that the ad is sleek and cool, it doesn’t even show one person vaping on an e-cigarette.
It is angling for empowering its users to make a breakthrough, and while it is possible that it could be seen as advertising smoking cessation, we think it is a bit of a stretch.
Watch The Vype E-cig Commercial That was Banned In the UK
More than anything, this is a government agency hitting back preemptively to make sure e-cigarette brands do not take it too far with their advertising.
In the relatively short history of electronic cigarettes, the industry has already faced a number of obstacles and crossroads. From lobbyist opposing the e-cigarette movement as a whole, to the latest push for strong regulations. Now the battle has moved to the sphere of advertising, a crucial one if e-cigs are to grow and reach the hands of those that need them.
The pushback by the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority was expected, as both governments and e-cigarette brands posture to reach their most ideal scenarios. Usually the line will fall somewhere in the middle, but clearly it is being negotiated, in a sense, through this public forum.
The future of electronic cigarettes will at least partly be decided by how and where they will be advertised. This is a developing front in the tug-of-war over e-cigarettes and their future place in the consumer market. We’ll expect to see more of this in the coming year and here at ECCR we’ll be watching it closely.