Philip Morris halts global social campaign after Reuters probe into model age

Philip Morris International (PMI) has suspended its global social media campaign, following Reuters probe into the company’s use of influencers whose age is below PMI’s internal guidance. According to Reuters, the influencers used for the marketing campaign were aged below 25 years.  The marketing posts were by Russian models on Instagram.

In a statement to Marketing, a spokesperson from PMI said upon learning of these allegations, the company “immediately initiated and concluded” an internal investigation. The spokesperson added that the company took swift action to address an instance of influencer engagement in breach of its digital influencer guidance.

A spokesperson clarified to Marketing that whilst the influencer in question is a legal age adult smoker, the influencer is under 25 years old and the PMI guidance called for influencers to be 25 years old and above. “This was a clear breach of that guidance. That said, no laws were broken,” the PMI spokesperson said.

To ensure responsible digital communications about its smoke-free products, PMI said until 10 May it adhered to a set of principles. These principles include developing digital communications programs to be in compliance with applicable local laws and ensuring digital influencers must be over 25 years of age and adult smokers or users of smoke-free products. In addition, digital influencers’ areas of interest should not be appealing to minors, and the audience of the influencers’ accounts must be predominantly adults, while digital influencers must publicly disclose the fact of their relationship with PMI. PMI does not engage digital influencers based in the United States or those who have a significant following within the United States, because it does not sell products there.

The spokesperson explained that while the company “is dismayed” to discover it might have breached its principles in this “isolated example”, the company thanks external scrutiny.

“This discovery led us to immediately suspend our product-related digital influencer actions to avoid the risk of similar incidents occurring in the future. We welcome outside scrutiny to further our commitment to the highest possible communications standards. We believe this swift action taken is a clear signal- and concrete proof- of our conviction to achieve a smoke-free world through socially responsible practices,” the spokesperson said.

Just last month, PMI launched an insurance unit called “reviti” to encourage smokers to stop or switch to alternative options. According to the brand, the life insurance is first rolled out in the UK, but has plans to expand into more markets around the globe. In a statement to Marketing, a PMI spokesperson said there is currently a gap in the market for life insurance policies for people who smoke and wish to quit tobacco and nicotine altogether or switch to scientifically substantiated reduced risk alternatives to smoking.

As such, to meet this need PMI unveiled reviti to “challenge the status quo” in the life insurance category by offering “highly competitive” insurance premiums to incentivise positive behavioural change – starting with abandoning cigarettes.

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