A glossy new 50-page magazine from Silk Cut goes in the mail this month to Gallaher's database of U.K. smokers. Silk Cut, the U.K.'s leading low-tar brand, is never mentioned except for a spread ad for the brand. The magazine has no title-in fact the cover is simply a black background picturing a poisonous Japanese fish called the Peacock Puffer next to the numeral "1"-but the second page is devoted to the word "passion." And passion is the theme that links bizarre editorial content ranging from the thrills of roller coaster addicts to the romance of marrying at the top of the Empire State Building.
"We are relying on the magazine's contents and images, which are highly impactful, to present readers with the quality associated with Silk Cut," said a Gallaher spokesman, who declined to reveal the size of the mailing list.
The project started when Forward Publishing, a fast-growing U.K. contract publisher in which Maurice and Charles Saatchi own a substantial stake, used its Saatchi contacts to wangle an introduction to Silk Cut execs. Forward's CEO Neil Mendoza developed the venture initially with Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising, then Silk Cut's agency, and now works with M&C Saatchi Agency, London, since the Silk Cut account followed Charles Saatchi to the new agency.
For the last 11 years Mr. Saatchi has masterminded Silk Cut's unusual print ad campaign. In its earliest form, the magazine and poster campaign simply showed a piece of purple silk with a long slit. For years the imagery of cut silk has become increasingly sophisticated. In the Silk Cut magazine's ad, a rose's thorns shred the familiar silk.
It is not unprecedented for cigarette marketers to sponsor a magazine. Philip Morris published a brand-specific monthly magazine featuring smoking-related articles between 1986 and 1991. Circulation varied from 10 million to 13 million.
But the Silk Cut magazine's trendy lifestyle orientation sets it apart. For example, an essay linking love and death in the form of sexual jealousy is more akin to one of the turbulent novels of Josephine Hart, Maurice Saatchi's wife, than to a tobacco company-sponsored publication.
There are no ads apart from the Silk Cut spread, but readers can order $5 T-shirts with pictures from the magazine like the fish cover or enter a contest that involves picking clues out of a dictionary definition of passion. Combining letters highlighted in red spells out statements like "It's the home of the ringtailed lemur" about a mystery destination to which readers will win a free trip if identified. (Silk Cut readers take note: It's Madagascar.)