The Lukeport Way

In the year 1989, Lukeport and Swedemaster supplants Philip Morris to become the top grossing Big Tobacco corporation in the United States. Trailing only China National Tobacco, world-wide, Lukeport and Swedemaster reaches the pinnacle of their success. In one year to follow Lukeport and Swedemaster collapses. Absorbed by Japan Tobacco International in spring, 1992, the name Lukeport and Swedemaster remains only in history.recent_124 copy 3After a settlement between industry leaders and state attorneys in fall, the year 1990, L&S–and industry giants Philip Morris, and Lorillard T.C.–were each forced to contribute annual sums of five-hundred million dollars to anti-smoking efforts. The effective span of the settlement–known as the Tobacco Responsibilities Settlement–was predetermined for a one year trial. Stipulations of the mandate had provided rights in each corporation to produce and market their own anti-smoking campaigns, which, no matter the course taken required the makers name be identified by the ads within. This was a precautionary measure, of course to ensure integrity of the ads. Of the three corporations subject to the settlement, all efforts proved controversial, but Lukeport and Swedemaster, in particular, failed to comply. Profound troubles followed L&S in that favor.

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At the time of the TRS enactment, anti-smoking, in the implement as a marketing campaign was a novel enterprise. In the United States, anti-drug campaigns, which target youth, had been well in existence since as early as the nineteen-seventies (these were privately funded,) and government funded ads of the same vein, as sparse as they were had been around since decades earlier. But anti-smoking efforts remained untouched. By hands suitable to reach wallets thick enough to push the agenda with real traction, anti-smoking was a new frontier. As the news broke of the Tobacco Responsibilities Settlement, it was much to the fanfare of a small not-for-profit campaign in San Francisco, known by the name Truth.

Truth, founded in 1987, was the most impactful privately funded anti-smoking campaign yet in existence. However, due to financial limitations (as a startup dependent on individual donations) the ceiling of that impact had seemed to some, even among those within the organization, tragically ill-fated. So of course, the fact of Big Tobacco corporations being forced by a supreme court to join the effort, seemed a sign of good to come to the struggling but passionate organization Truth.

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The nation was buzzing with rumors of what the anti-tobacco ads by Big Tobacco might render. It was the focus of headlines, and the topic of news on television. The curiosity was expectable. Truth anchored its way in the thick of it, thanks in large to a local celebrity, the San Francisco resident and International movie star Jackie Chan, who at the time was one of the biggest action stars, enjoying the successes of almost yearly occurring blockbusters. An expert martial artist, performing all of his own stunts, Jackie Chan was famous as well for his physical, athletic prowess. Many had dubbed him the new Bruce Lee. Jackie Chan, who had lost his brother to lung cancer in 1985, became vocal on the matter ever since. In Hong Kong, in 1986, Jackie Chan protested China National Tobacco in the public square outside their headquarters. Equally loved in China, if not more, it was no surprise when hundreds of fans surrounded Jackie–immediately–joining the protest in his support. Truth knew what they were doing when they asked him to sign. Jackie Chan became the official sponsor and spokesman of Truth in 1990.

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The first corporation to release an anti-smoking ad was Philip Morris.

Reception of the ad surmises ambivalence. People were truly unsure what to think. In short, a brilliant marketing ploy by Philip Morris. There of course had been sincere distrust regarding the intentions of these corporations. No one in their right mind would expect 500 million dollars is spent to intentionally hurt profits. Philip Morris, in an honorable attempt at alchemy–as two years time and a state university funded study would prove–increased their profits by persuading against their own customers. Sylvester Barone, professor emeritus of social psychology at USC, a doctor of economics, led the study in which he proposed and sought to support, that by PM expressing to parents, and not children, that they should talk with their children about the dangers of smoking, children may interpret the ads to say that smoking is an activity for adults, which may seem to them enticing; moreover, adult smokers who are also parents conclude from the ads that PM is a respectable brand. Sylvester Barone’s claims, as defining as he intended them, several years after the study’s conclusion he stands by his findings. What simple fact cannot be refuted, consists black and white numbers. From 1990 to 1992, sales of Philip Morris had increased by 12%. A record increase by their standard to this day.

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Eager to usurp the early success of a recently toppled rival, Lukeport and Swedemaster turned to its favorite page in the playbook that won them their number one status in Big Tobacco. Bold and in your face. That’s the only way to describe the marketing method. RJ Reynolds, which owns the brand Winston, famous for the slogan “No Bullshit,” quietly retired the saying that very year. The year that Lukeport and Swedemaster released the Lukeport Short. The ads that ushered Lukeport Shorts to the masses were unlike anything seen before in any industry. To much the ire of the FCC, Lukeport and Swedemaster pumped the ads regardless.

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As culture critic Walter Amdros remarked, “It was one thing to claim ‘no bullshit’, but it was quite another to turn the ass of a steer to the audience to prove the point.” Bold as L&S marketing methods were, it deserves the credit for L&S skyrocketing to the height it did in only three years. The ads were immensely popular. People read the ads and could not help but notice that at least something was different. The ads insulted customers. Insulted competitors. Championed individuals, and those individuals were the characters portraying the ads within. The Lukeport Way, as the campaign was known, was a way of its own.

However, when the time came to release anti-smoking ads, what no one saw coming, was because what came. Nothing changed. Lukeport and Swedemaster argued their own case, that Lukeport Way ads are anti-smoking ads in of themselves. And by the contents of any Lukeport Way advertisement, it is difficult to refute that. On the face, to inspect and assess the ads on a purely objective basis, perhaps not as much, but such could not rule this case and the reason points to the ads of its competitors. Any standard to assess one campaign would have to apply to all three. All three campaigns may seem on their own covertly perverting the goal, anti-smoking. Arguably, with that premise in mind, which for so many it was, L&S would seem the most transparent campaign and by miles of fog between.

Notice the campaign put forth by Lorillard T.C.

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“Tobacco is Whacko.” As Sylvester Barone hypothesized in the case of Philip Morris, many would reason there was feigned innocence on the behalf of Lorillard T.C.. Moreover, and–to Lorillard’s disadvantage specifically—the campaign by Philip Morris, if indeed a guiltful conversion it was at least shielded by its careful crafting. Implementing the use of a slang, however, the word ‘Whacko,’ that having no presence in the vernacular of the time, was found by many, to be, at best, an attempt at marketing a specific audience and failing to connect with them. Were Lorillard T.C. not the Fortune 500 mainstay it had been for consecutive decades, more people would have perhaps granted them that benefit of doubt. But people who cared, however. Concerned citizens. People who’d spent the time to consider the ads and the source of them. Such people were less forgiving, and when they spoke, their words echoed with little trouble.

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Focus groups, which have been in practice by corporations for decades, and are known to be at least useful, at least effective enough for them to have been used for decades, would have discovered a more relevant slogan than “Tobacco is Whacko.” Corny in all its vein. At worst, this was the intention of Lorillard T.C.–If to give the corporation more credit–(Tobacco is whacko IF you’re a teen)–in the sense of their marketing savvy, the effect surmises the same as in the case of Philip Morris–that tobacco is not for children–though minus the aspect of adult appreciation of the presenting brand, as the ads by Lorillard T.C. targeted children and only children.

Sales subsequently dipped dramatically for Lorillard T.C.. In one survey, a majority found the ads to suggest the corporation assumes little in the intelligence of its customers.

With the Lorillard T.C. failure floating at the surface for all to see, Lukeport and Swedemaster seized the carcass, hoping to kill two birds with one stone. Truth was gaining new ground, thanks to the relevance of ads by corporations. Perception of Truth, was, if not impressed by them, people were at least not doubtful of their intentions. As far as reputation, people had considered the campaign as only positive, albeit if its presence was quiet. Standing side by side with relative mammoths, Truth marched largely unnoticed. But, with Jackie Chan of course, that started to change. In one month’s time, following the releases of all three campaigns, Truth released its first nation-wide ad, a full-page spread in that month’s issue of Time Magazine. It was seen by millions.

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Lukeport and Swedemaster struck and struck fast. The mindset of Jerry Sander, President of Lukeport and Swedemaster, was a great white shark’s. The success of Lukeport Shorts had seemed to him unrelenting. Sander believed the brand to be unstoppable, more than because its ever-increasing profits but the means through which it was coming. Not to mention the fact as well it did seem he’d outsmarted a supreme court. His anti-smoking campaign was the same campaign as his smoking campaign. Sure, he wasn’t responsible for its design, but sure he gave himself the credit, at least much of it, he did, as he was the overseer. Nothing had changed at Lukeport and Swedemaster and no one could stop that. So it seemed a no brainer for Sander, when he decided, upon his reading Truth’s spread in Time Magazine, that the time had come to take Truth out for good. A simple decision. As simple as to push a button or to not. That’s how it seemed to Sander. It wouldn’t be difficult to take Truth out, he figured. But would the consequences be worth it, he pondered. Ultimately, he pushed the button.

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And Jackie fought back.

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Truth must had been worried. Even if confident, these were uncharted waters to the small group of part-time dedicates, who not long before were working in the free space of a two-car garage. Signed with Jackie Chan, pushing ads in national magazines, and now, in a war of short sentences against the richest and most powerful people in the entire country.

When Lukeport and Swedemaster struck back–and the bruise to render–it must had been absolutely crushing to Truth’s morale. What a machine of a monster that Lukeport and Swedemaster must be. How simply out of reach the advantages it holds must be. How far the spiral back down to earth must had seemed. Because one ad–one single ad–and Jackie Chan was forced to retire.

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Lukeport and Swedemaster must had thought the battle was over, that the fly had been swat, Jerry Sander must had been thinking.

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But Truth was not over. Not even close. Jackie Chan or not, Truth had more to throw.

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Ready to rumble, Lukeport and Swedemaster launched a direct hit of its own.

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Backed into the proverbial corner, what charged forward was sheer brilliance. The medium consisted of another untouchable, in the seeming war of good and bad–a figure whose reputation would seem neutral if anything at all. Enter Bart Simpson. America’s bad boy. And the truth, Truth said, he’s against smoking.

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Lukeport and Swedemaster, as per their norm, struck back and did fast. As if a matter of protocol, the response was immediate. But don’t let that fool you to think Bart Simpson was painless. Bart Simpson could have sliced an achilles with the edge of his skateboard. It was a one-time ad, a favor from Matt Groening. A one-time bombing and at the peak of its respective power. The half-lives to that blast, how long it might last, is hard to say, but all signs said Jerry Sander was unready to surrender.

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