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Sexual VIP e-cigarette advertising: smoking hot or not?

VIP e-cigarette, a UK brand, started a ‘smutty’ campaign in apparent response to The Advertising Standards Authority warning issued in September 2013. ASA was complaining about ads that were not clear they were for e-cigarettes, and didn’t mention that the products contained nicotine. Now the problem is a reference to oral sex.

VIP Electronic Cigarette

VIP Electronic Cigarette

The copy of the ad includes woman speaking about “getting it out” and “putting it in her mouth.” In the short, 20 seconds clips aired in TV product is not shown due to the regulations. However full-length  versions available online show the product and a “contains nicotine” warning.

 

TV version:

 

Online version:

 

“I want you to get it out; I want to see it; I want to feel it, hold it, put it in my mouth; I want to see how great it tastes”

– Script of the controversial VIP  e-cigarette advertisement

There are also two other clips that include male protagonists and similarly controversial message.

TV version:

Online version:

VIP understands the ad will be viewed as controversial and anticipates a “reaction,” but claims it takes its responsibilities as an e-cigarette manufacturer “extremely seriously”

“I think it’s safe to say that our ads could be considered controversial and definitely push the boundaries. However, we make no apologies for this. Due to advertising regulations, we were not permitted to include the product in the ad, so we decided to take a tongue-in-cheek approach to appeal to an adult audience and communicate the superior taste of VIP products whilst making it clear that they do contain nicotine.”

– says David Levin, co-founder of VIP for Marketing Magazine.

“E-cigarettes offer smokers an alternative that is widely regarded to be less damaging to health than traditional tobacco cigarettes, and at VIP we only market our products to existing smokers over the age of 18.”

– Mr. Levin adds.

So far, the advertisement generated enough public outrage to appear in British tabloids. Daily Mail covers the story enjoying its every semi-sexual detail and describing reactions of disgusted TV viewers that were unfortunate to watch I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! show while the short clip was aired.

I think it’s safe to say that our ads could be considered controversial and definitely push boundaries.

Due to advertising regulations we were not permitted to include the product in the ad, so we decided to take a tongue-in-cheek approach to appeal to an adult audience and communicate the superior taste of VIP products, whilst making it clear that the product does contain nicotine and that they are only available to smokers over the age of 18.

We anticipated that the creative treatment for this campaign would cause comment and we were ready for this, but I want to make it very clear that as a leading e-cigarette manufacturer we take our responsibilities extremely seriously which is evident in our decision not to broadcast the ads before the watershed and follow the advertising rules closely.’

– Miguel Corral, co-owner of VIP Electronic Cigarettes, said to Daily Mail.

The public story goes against an e-cigarettes producer, but at K-message, we have to admit that the campaign bought a lot of airtime for the brand and probably increased brand awareness in the UK. Complaints will not affect its image too much as this kind of communication seems to be within the brand world of VIP, and we really doubt it could offend it’s target group. From this perspective it is definitely a success.

Both ads aired in TV were previously approved by both the industry body Clearcast and ITV Granada who screened it. Advertisement was broadcasted after 9pm local time and actors casted are over 25 years old.

 

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About Piotr Wrzosiński

Piotr Wrzosinski is a sociologist focused on digital marketing in highly regulated industries. He combines experience from top players in tobacco, financial services, and pharma with a passion to the content marketing and technology. All opinions posted are his own unless stated otherwise.

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