RJR extends Winston line

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R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. thinks its newest smoke is as smooth as silver. And that's no bull.

A campaign through Gyro Worldwide, Philadelphia, for S2-the latest Winston line extension, available in stores nationwide next month-leverages the 4-year-old "No bull" positioning that helped spark a turnaround for the brand beginning in 1997.

Print ads, breaking in June issues of magazines including Maxim, Rolling Stone and Vogue, are tagged "No boundaries. No Bull." The ads-in silver, black and blue tones-only feature the product, highlighting the silver packaging that will also be carried through to Winston's 20 other styles. The campaign is the first major ad effort for Winston from Gyro, which previously worked with other RJR brands and handled Winston direct marketing. There is no agency of record for Winston, which has bounced around a lot from agency to agency. It was recently handled by Doe Anderson, Louisville, Ky., and before that, Interpublic Group of Cos.' Long Haymes Carr, Winston-Salem, N.C., (since merged into Mullen).

RJR would not disclose spending for Winston, the sixth-largest cigarette in the country, with a 4.8% market share in 2000, according to the Maxwell Report. The company spent $43.5 million on Winston last year, as measured by Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR.

"Given that this has a product and a packaging story, it made sense to single-mindedly focus on the packs," said Ned Leary, VP-marketing for Winston. But ads maintain the straightforward, in-your-face attitude that saved Winston after more than two decades of struggle. "You need to continue to do things that are going to demand attention," said Mr. Leary. "Standing still is not an option, but you don't want to do it in a such a way that you wander too far from the positioning."

Not a chance of that, with ad headlines like "You know how you said you'd never switch? You lied." S2, deemed "quantum smooth" in the effort, "continues a challenger-brand attitude in a very modern look," Mr. Leary said. "It will always be tethered to product performance," he added. "It's not just an image; it's product-based differentiation."

Some industry-watchers think variety-a key asset in most package-goods categories-is less powerful in the tobacco segment. "Smokers are very loyal to their brand," said Ann Gurkin, analyst at Davenport & Co. "It would be highly unlikely that you're going to switch a [Philip Morris Cos.' Philip Morris USA's] Marlboro smoker to a Winston smoker for some packaging or silver lining."

But Marc Cohen, analyst at Goldman Sachs, said "anything a [cigarette] company can do to stand out behind the counter" is important, due to big tobacco's agreement with the states that limits advertising. "There's been a complete transformation in the way cigarettes are marketed in the U.S., and visibility at retail has become much more of an issue than it was years ago."

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