Part history, part parody, this movie gets to the heart of marketing big tobacco in the most relatable way possible: Through the eyes of the marketer himself.
Marketing big tobacco has always been viewed as, at best, regrettable, and at worst, reprehensible. One of the greatest ad men of our time, David Ogilvy, even praised himself in his book on advertising for not mentioning how to advertise cigarettes.
Nevertheless, cigarettes have always been a big money business, and this film captures the cunning cloak-and-dagger schemes perpetrated by big tobacco in the interest of getting more people smoking, and getting smoking people to smoke even more.
The plot is straightforward. Nick Naylor is a good-looking, smooth-talking tobacco lobbyist and the vice-president of a tobacco lobby called the "Academy of Tobacco Studies", which for 15 years has been "researching" the link between tobacco smoking and lung cancer.
As a representative of big tobacco, he secretly praises this Academy for not being able to find one link between smoking and cancer.
Besides his erratic sexual escapades facilitated by his silver tongue, the movie culminates when Nick's duty as a father and his conscience-deprived actions at work conflict, and the result is a coming-of-age about matching one's talent, with one's personal self-image.
I liked this movie a lot.
It was both funny, and tragic. The fact smoking lobbyists have been able to push back resistance from anti-smoking coalitions to ban their products is both a feat of sheer marketing genius, as well as a clear indication of the holes in our health system.
As long as you're not selling products that kill, the lessons of big tobacco are there for all to enjoy no matter what you sell, in the interest of selling something positive.
Big tobacco stayed big for a very long time because they drowned scientific opposition with their own "research,' all while building deeply engaging and emotional brands around their products, like the Marlboro Man that was so successful that it ran for 45 years.
If you want an entertaining way to boost your media relations and sales-driven firepower, this is the move for you.
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