If you live in Colorado and flip on your TV next month, you may catch an ad from R.J. Reynolds. That's where the tobacco company of Camel fame plans to air its first commercial since 1971.
That was the year the Nasdaq debuted, Nixon installed a secret taping system in the White House and the U.S. government banned cigarette ads.
Now, they’re back, but not for tobacco products. R.J. Reynolds is returning to the broadcast market to promote its electronic cigarette Vuse.
A number of smaller e-cig players have already been airing ads. Blu eCigs features Jenny McCarthy in its commercials.
“You know,” says, McCarthy, in a new ad bound for TV, but already available on YouTube, “I love being single. But here’s what I don’t love, a kiss that tastes like an ashtray -- blechhh. I’m Jenny McCarthy and I’ve finally found a smarter alternative to cigarettes.”
Sales of e-cigs in the U.S. have topped $1 billion this year. It’s only a fraction of the overall cigarette market, but sales are growing fast. So far e-cigs have been dominated by smaller companies.
“I think coast to coast you’ll probably see blu eCig commercials, maybe a little bit of Njoy,” says Tom Mullarkey, an equity analyst with Morningstar.
Meanwhile, big tobacco has been cautious. E-cig ads target smokers, and Mullarkey says companies don’t want to undercut traditional cigarettes, which are much more profitable. The caution extends even to the content of the ads.
R.J. Reynolds’s commercial for Vuse is “modest” and “vague,” says Shane MacGuill, a tobacco analyst with Euromonitor International.
“If you watch it, it takes you the majority of the ad itself to work out what the product is,” he says.
Unlike McCarthy’s spot for Blu, which shows her puffing away, the Vuse ads features shooting stars, sunsets and skyscrapers, but no actual smoke or smokers.
Some cigarette sellers, notes MacGuill, are being careful not to attract regulators’ attention.