In 2019, influencer marketing is the most normal thing in the world. But what if the tobacco industry secretly pays influencers to advertise cigarette brands? It is shocking but true. Two American research agencies (Campaign for Tabacco-Free Kids and Netnografica) show that through influencer marketing, billions of (young) people have come into contact with the advertising of tobacco products.
Secret tobacco promotion
The four largest tobacco manufacturers in the world have apparently secretly promoted their tobacco products in various ways over the past years on different social media channels. Influencer marketing was part of this. There are said to have been 400 influencers deployed in America, whose reports have been viewed more than 8.8 billion times. The global reach even reaches 25 billion. As you can easily reach people from all over the world via the internet, including young children of thirteen years old.
Furthermore, the investigation shows that the tobacco manufacturers are sneaky. For example, the influencers were not allowed to use hashtags such as #ad or #sponsored, with which a sponsored collaboration is normally made known. However, the influencers had to communicate specific hashtags that belong to the tobacco campaigns. These hashtags, such as “#TasteTheUnknown” and “#Nighthunters”, are not directly related to the tobacco industry and therefore seem harmless. In addition, the influencers were briefed to take a picture that was as “authentic” as possible, so that it would not look too commercial.
Advertising for tobacco is illegal
The influencer campaign was conducted in secret because tobacco promotion is illegal in many countries.
Is tobacco promotion a trend?
What makes influencer marketing a touchy subject is the limitless reach. For example, an influencer photo promoting cigarettes can reach a 50-year-old man who perfectly understands that this is advertising and scrolling through, but also a 12-year-old girl who thinks smoking is ‘cool’, lights up her first cigarette and then becomes addicted her entire life is.