This is a record year for cigarette continuity efforts. Such programs have proved to be very successful in driving sales and brand loyalty vs. discount brands by rewarding consumers with giveaways in exchange for proofs-of-purchase.
BANNED BY CLINTON
All such tobacco continuity programs would be banned under President Clinton's proposed new rules, which severely restrict all tobacco marketing, particularly to youths.
Legal experts predict it will be at least two years before any changes in tobacco advertising or other forms of marketing are implemented, as tobacco companies, advertising groups and states mount fierce legal opposition to the rules, primarily on First Amendment grounds.
Tobacco marketers, most of which have already taken steps to discourage participation by anyone under 21, plan no immediate changes in continuity programs.
No. 1 cigarette marketer Philip Morris Cos. still has on track the "Marlboro Unlimited," its largest-ever tobacco promotion, combining a train-themed continuity program and a sweepstakes, which began late last year.
Earlier this year, 2,000 consumers won trips for two on the train, which will take groups on an expenses-paid five-day journey studded with adventures through the western U.S. The promotion is open only to smokers.
TRAIN TO ROLL NEXT SPRING
A multimillion-dollar, one-third-mile-long red train is being specially built for the promotion. Originally slated to roll this fall, construction delays have pushed back the train's first trip to next spring, said a Philip Morris spokeswoman.
Meanwhile, the "Marlboro Unlimited" continuity marketing program continues to hype the trip with dozens of related giveaway items.
"You'll see more marketing associated with the train later this year or next spring," the spokeswoman said. So far, advertising has consisted of extensive print and outdoor ads touting "The Train ... The Trip ... The Gear."
Philip Morris has also expanded the number of pages in the latest "V-Wear" catalog in its Virginia Slims continuity program targeting women. Eleven items are available in exchange for proofs-of-purchase in the latest catalog, which appeared at the point of purchase last month. The items include a silk blazer, purses, tote bags and jewelry.
"We're offering more descriptive copy-it looks more catalog-like," the Philip Morris spokeswoman said.
Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, is Philip Morris' agency for both continuity programs.
Even U.S. Tobacco Co. got into the continuity marketing act this year for its Skoal and Copenhagen smokeless tobacco brands, offering a plethora of outdoor apparel and accessories in exchange for tobacco can lids.
The "Copenhagen & Skoal Outfitters" catalog boasts everything from hats to pool tables in exchange for proofs-of-purchase, in the company's largest such program to date. The effort is handled in-house.