Talk about a warm welcome.
As someone who has worked in advertising and PR and interacted closely with journalists and other media professionals for three decades—and who understands as well as anyone the scepticism, and often downright cynicism, among those of us who make a living in these trades—I must admit to having had my own doubts about how my current employer Philip Morris International and I would be received at Cannes Lions last month.
Let’s face it, when it comes to being persuaded, there’s no tougher customer than we advertising and media people.
So you can imagine my surprise after seeing how well attended our presentations were at Cannes, and how many folks approached me up and down the Croisette wanting to know more about PMI’s new mission to reinvent itself as a smoke-free company, our commitment to helping create a smoke-free planet and how much positive coverage we received in the international press—including Financial Times, Bloomberg, Ad Age, Adweek, Campaign and many more.
Our installation on the beach at Cannes, a stone’s throw from the legendary Carlton Hotel and the outposts of tech giants like Facebook and Pinterest, was particularly well received. As Nat Ives of Ad Age wrote: "The spacious PMI Science Lounge (#SmokeFreeFuture) includes sleek vaping equipment under glass and big touchscreens describing ‘The Path of Progress’ and ‘Our Findings to Date’ on e-cigarette health risks."
I joined our company CEO Andre Calantzopoulos in Cannes to promote our smoke-free mission and to enlist the creative, media and communications communities to embrace it. As part of that, we at PMI announced that we would offer, in markets where possible, smoke-free alternatives, including heated tobacco products and e-cigarettes, to current smokers in the industry—smokers only, I want to stress.
As I explained during my keynote address in Cannes, we want the creative community to join us in raising awareness of the potential of science, technology and innovation for those who smoke and the people around them. People who smoke deserve more and better information about the alternatives to smoking, and advertising and media professionals can play a vital role in making that happen.
We already have a partner in Emakina Group, an independent group of communication agencies in Europe, which is the first agency network to declare its commitment to a smoke-free future by pledging to support our initiative across its 13 offices.
Here’s the thing: life is about choices. Some of the choices we make are good for us, while others aren’t. But, as we all know, options are rarely presented in black and white. Low-salt products are better than salty ones for those with high blood pressure. Products lower in sugar are obviously better for you than sugary ones if you happen to be diabetic. And so on and so on. The fact: PMI’s technology-based products are better for you than smoking, and we stand committed to getting the word out about it.
That’s why we’re inviting all agencies and media partners to have open minds about our science-based research and alternatives and our groundbreaking efforts to help smokers make better choices. As we saw from this year’s award-winning work at Cannes—and as those of us who work in this industry see on a daily basis—those with the most creative minds, producing the biggest, boldest ideas, have the power to catalyze real change in the world.
We sincerely appreciate the warm welcome we received in Cannes. But beyond that, we really want to tap your boundless creativity—and to open up our marketing budgets to you—in our mission to communicate to consumers our vision of a smoke-free world, how we can help them make better choices and how better for you means good for you.
Those interested in joining our movement can contact me directly at email@example.com.