Sunit Roy

"Most smokers picked the habit from an 'influencer friend' in college": Nicotex

The nicotine gum brand targets the 30-40 year-old male smoker through this new ad campaign.

We all know 'Smoking is Injurious to Health'. However, while the number of smokers keeps increasing, the fact is that many people try to quit smoking but fail to do so. Reason: Nicotine is a chemical, found in cigarettes, and the ingredient that induces addiction.

To tackle the problem, Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) comes handy. The therapy uses low-nicotine products (such as nicotine gum, patches, lozenges, nasal spray, sublingual tablets and inhaler), thereby cutting down on the craving and easing the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. In India, nicotine gum is the most preferred form of NRT among smokers, when given the choice to select from the various forms of NRT.

"Most smokers picked the habit from an 'influencer friend' in college": Nicotex
In order to create awareness among the Indian masses, especially among the youth to stop smoking, and to promote its product Nicotex, Cipla Health has recently launched a new TVC. The new ad film titled 'Friends', has been conceptualised by Soho Square, Mumbai, and has been directed by Kopal Nathani from SuperFly Films. The creative team includes Ankur Jain, Sanjay Ujawane, Tiyasha Ray Ghosh, Pawan Pandey and Prashant Kandalkar. The ad will also be available on digital platforms such as YouTube and Facebook.
"Most smokers picked the habit from an 'influencer friend' in college": Nicotex
Set in the backdrop of a college re-union, the TVC shows two friends reminiscing about the times gone by and attempts to highlight the struggles of a smoker who's a fence-sitter when it comes to quitting.

Speaking about the campaign, Anuraag R Khandelwal, ECD and creative head, SohoSquare, Mumbai, says, "Smoking is on the rise and so is the need to kick the habit. Nicotex is different because it intervenes in a positive manner and contrasts the usual 'gory lung images and coughing-intensive' communication that we keep seeing on television and in the cinemas. So, our brief to (Kopal) Nathani was to keep it simple, real and relatable while at the same time not to make it a tear-jerker."

Though there are several products in the same category such as Johnson & Johnson's Nicorette, Pfizer's Champix and Birlaveda's Quitobac doing the rounds of the Indian market, Nicotex has attempted to grab the attention of the youth by launching a new marketing campaign and at the same time, introduce new flavours.

"Most smokers picked the habit from an 'influencer friend' in college": Nicotex
"Most smokers picked the habit from an 'influencer friend' in college": Nicotex
Commenting on the new campaign, Himava Nath, head of marketing, Cipla Health, says "Our core TG is 30-40 year-old men who want to quit smoking through alternate means (yoga, coffee, home remedies), but have been unable to do so. Through research we understood that most smokers picked up the habit during their college days from an influencer friend, and the habit stayed. When such a close friend who initiated you into smoking quits and offers you a means (Nicotex Nicotine gum) to quit, the trust and belief in the fact that you will quit, is higher. We have built on this emotion through the film."

From the brand's perspective, this is not an experiment. It's a planned sequential campaign post its (Nicotex's) launch campaign a couple of years ago. The brand's core TG comprises smokers who have had the habit for a while now. "They (smokers) have gone through the excitement phase, and now, it's more of a reflex and craving that has set in. They are in the 30-plus age group. Many attempted to quit and have failed. Right from exercising and yoga, to candies and cloves, there have been several ways that have been tried by these people. Some have either temporarily succeeded to reduce, or have quit for a few days/weeks," elaborates Khandelwal.

The current market conditions are extremely conducive from a product perspective. Consumers today are actively making choices which enhance their health either by integrating healthier options or completely removing bad habits. Therefore, to best camouflage the strong taste of nicotine, Cipla Health has launched Nicotex chewing gum in four flavours - Classic Fresh Mint, Mint-Plus, Cinnamon, and Paan.

"Nicotex is already available in four flavours based on consumer habits; we have recently launched a teeth whitening variant which not only helps you quit smoking, but also whitens your teeth. And, for the first time in the category, we have launched a stylish tin pack," informs Nath.

What's also intriguing is the fact that although the number of women smokers has increased in the past few years, in the ad, there is no mention of the female gender, and the way women should quit smoking. Why?

"Men account for the majority of smokers. The triggers for quitting also differ between men and women. Hence, in order to sharply target our communication, we addressed only male smokers for now," explains Nath.

"We have an exhaustive campaign; metros and mini-metros should adopt this category before it percolates to other towns," he adds.

Well Communicated?

We asked the experts whether the ad succeeded in creating a buzz, and what was their take on the fact that the brand did not acknowledge the female smoker?

"Most smokers picked the habit from an 'influencer friend' in college": Nicotex
"Most smokers picked the habit from an 'influencer friend' in college": Nicotex
"Most smokers picked the habit from an 'influencer friend' in college": Nicotex
Harish Bijoor, brand expert and founder, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc, says, "The piece is totally centred upon strategy. 'I started you on it and I will get you off it' is the line that works best in the context. This piece of communication addresses the challenge faced by many a smoker squarely. It hits the right spot, that of wife and child criticism, and helps position the brand Nicotex as a friend. The pace of the film is just right to communicate what it wants to communicate."

Suman Srivastava, founder and innovation artist, Marketing Unplugged, thinks that the ad is good, but not great. "It is good because it targets the right age group of people and makes the suggestion that friends who started smoking together, need to help each other quit together. I think there is merit in this idea. I hope that the brand is using this insight to launch an integrated programme that gets people to help their friends to quit. That might really work for the category," says Srivastava.

According to Srivastava, one reason to not include women smokers could be that there are fewer women who smoke. "Women haven't been used because more men smoke than women. I found that the percentage of men in India who smoke is around 24 per cent while only 3 per cent of women smoke. However, there is a trend that the ratio is being turned around with the number of men smoking going down and the number of women smoking going up," says Srivastava.

Independent advertising and marketing consultant Vibha Desai has a similar take on the ad. "College reunions tap into nostalgia, fun-filled times which are free of responsibilities. The ad clearly tries to juxtapose between these two periods in one's life. Smoking was a part of that period, but today, a lot has changed. Awareness about the effects of smoking and the health issues involved are known even to children. The smoker, today, is rarely guilt-free. As far as the male targetting is concerned, I feel it's primarily a question of numbers. Male smokers far outweigh female smokers," says Desai.

She also feels that one of the reasons that there are less female smokers is that women are closet smokers. "Female smoking is largely a non-public activity; women smoke when with friends, in office, and in safe places, but rarely openly at home," she says.

Have news to share? Write to us