Although the U.K. banned cigarette ads from TV in 1965, cigar and pipeadvertising on TV continued until the European Commission put a stop to it in 1991. Cigar marketers adhered to a voluntary ban on cinema advertising until 1997, when Gallaher broke ranks and began running cinema ads once it became apparent there was nothing to lose since the EC would legislate a tobacco ban in print advertising.
Even strident anti-tobacco critics could admit to enjoying the dark humor of the "Happiness is a cigar called Hamlet" commercials, most of which were created by CDP, a London agency now owned by Dentsu.
Since the small cigar was launched in 1963, the basic format of its commercials hasn't changed. A hapless protagonist is befallen by adversity and the scene ends with the hero seeking tranquility by lighting up a Hamlet. For instance, in a 1995 commercial a bald man tries in vain to get his picture taken in an automatic photo booth, only to have his few strands of hair slide down his head. The ads are always accompanied by Jacques Loussier's arrangement of Bach's Air on a G-String.
The final commercial attempts to make the "Hamlet moment" a part of popular culture and thereby keep the campaign alive despite the ad ban. It encourages people to hum "Air on a G-String" the next time they observe a bystander suffering a "Hamlet moment." The 60-second spot features six vignettes, including an appraiser breaking a woman's antique vase and a pub owner burning down his beer garden during a barbecue.
"There are Hamlet moments in everybody's lives. We wanted to depict some of these real life moments. We want to tap into the slightly dark humor that surrounds us all everyday. We all find ourselves having Hamlet Moments regularly; we just want our advertising to point these out to people," says Simon North, head of account management at CDP. "I guess what we're saying is that from now on, we won't be able to bring you Hamlet advertising, so it's up to you to notice Hamlet moments foryourselves."
The tagline is "Happiness will always be a cigar called Hamlet."
Four years after the launch of the Hamlet cigars and the first CDP campaign, the brand became the biggest-selling small cigar on the market. It continues to lead the segment with half of all small cigar sales.
Copyright October 1999, Crain Communications Inc.