ASA Not Blu About Ads

Posted 20th November 2019 by Dave Cross
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has knocked back complaints about Imperial Tobacco’s recent Blu advertising campaign. The organisation received twelve complaints from “members of the public” and the quit-for-cash company Allen Carr Easyway (International) Ltd.

The complaints were made about three separate incidents of the marketing campaign. Firstly, a poster displayed on the side of a bus, “featured a stylised drawn character of a woman wearing sunglasses and holding an e-cigarette.”

The advert contained the headline claim “I blu do you?” alongside the claim “NEW MYBLU. HANDY AND EASY VAPING”. Small text to the right of the image stated, “FOR EXISTING ADULT SMOKERS & VAPERS ONLY”. Smaller text underneath stated, “this product contains nicotine 18+ only. Not a smoking cessation product”.

The second advert featured a stylised drawn character of a woman and a man wearing sunglasses and with each holding an e-cigarette. The headline stated: “You blu too? Who knew?” alongside the claim “NEW MYBLU. HANDY AND EASY VAPING”. Small text to the right of the image stated, “FOR EXISTING ADULT SMOKERS & VAPERS ONLY.” Smaller text underneath stated, “this product contains nicotine 18+ only. Not a smoking cessation product”.

The third one featured a stylised drawn character of a woman wearing sunglasses holding an e-cigarette and featured the headline claim “I’m new to blu” alongside text “NEW MYBLU. HANDY AND EASY VAPING”. Small text underneath the image stated, “FOR EXISTING ADULT SMOKERS & VAPERS ONLY”. Very small text underneath stated, “this product contains nicotine 18+ only. Not a smoking cessation product”.

Allen Carr Easyway (International) Ltd and the 12 “members of the public” felt that the adverts “encouraged non-smokers and non-nicotine users to use e-cigarettes.”

ASA responded: “The CAP Code required that ads for e-cigarettes must not encourage non-smokers or non-nicotine users to use e-cigarettes. The ASA noted that all the ads contained the wording, ‘For Existing Adult Smokers & Vapers Only’. We considered that text alone was unlikely to deter a non-smoker or non-nicotine user from responding to an ad and that the ads needed to comply with the rule when each was taken as a whole.

We noted that all the ads featured stylised drawn characters who were all shown vaping and we considered that there was nothing in how they were presented that was likely to suggest to non-smokers particularly that the product was for them. We also considered that the taglines in ad (a) and (b), ‘I blu, do you’ and ‘you blu too? Who knew?’ would similarly speak to a general audience and did not actively suggest to non-smokers that they should take-up vaping. We considered the tagline in ad (c), ‘I’m new to blu’, would be interpreted by consumers to mean that the character had recently started using the advertised product specifically, rather than them being a non-nicotine user who was ‘new’ to nicotine products in general.

We investigated the ad under CAP Code rule 22.8 (Electronic cigarettes), but did not find it in breach. We concluded that the ads did not encourage non-smokers and non-nicotine users to use e-cigarettes.”


 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, dog walker