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Starting in November, smokers opening a pack of Salems in the New York market will find one of the 20 cigarettes inside has a green filter-tip.

That's just one element of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.'s test campaign, aimed at making the menthol brand hip and relevant.

The effort has a strategy of surprise that includes new graphics and slide-box packaging, a new taste, and a print and outdoor ad campaign based on the theme, "It's not what you expect."


The one green tip is "a way of setting Salem apart," said a company spokesman. "If it was a whole pack [of cigarettes with green tips], it wouldn't be unexpected."

The new campaign is from WestWayne, Tampa, Fla., which less than a year ago was vying for the $40 million account with Earle Palmer Brown, Bethesda, Md. But Reynolds said the company is not now seeking an agency of record.

"There is no agency of record for Salem," the spokesman said. "We are continuing to handle it on a project basis."

The surprise element in the advertising revolves around the brand symbol of a globe-shape with the letter S embedded in it. Introductory print ads are a four-page unit with the opening right page containing die-cut images; it opens to reveal another unexpected image.

In one, for example, a chili pepper on the first page opens to show it is actually part of two chili peppers positioned to resemble lips.

"These ads are vibrant, exciting and totally unexpected for this brand," said Doug Shouse, VP-brand marketing for Salem. "This advertising campaign is an effort to modernize the image of a 41-year-old brand."

Salem has been declining steadily, and the brand has been unsupported in the last few years. Salem had a share of 9% in 1978; it stands at 3.6% today. Its last ad campaign was from Trone Advertising, Greensboro, N.C., themed "Move to smooth." The brand hasn't had an agency of record since Trone and RJR split in September 1996.


According to Maxwell Consumer Report/Davenport & Co., Salem is the eighth-largest-selling smoke in the U.S. and the No. 2 menthol behind Lorillard's Newport, which had a 6.1% share in 1996, up from 5.6% a year earlier.

Newport was backed by $20.3 million in measured spending last year, with ads from Compton & Partners, New York, carrying the "Alive with pleasure" theme.

Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp.'s Kool is tied with Salem for No. 2 among menthols, with an overall market share of 3.6%, flat from last year. Measured spending for Kool last year was $26.5 million.

B&W just launched a new campaign for Kool, also aimed at making its image more contemporary. The ads from Grey Advertising, New York, are themed "B Kool" (AA, Oct. 20).

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