September 2, 2019

It's time to get tobacco brands off screen

The third season of Stranger Things (TV-14) debuted on Netflix on July 4 weekend. Coke, Burger King, JC Penny, The Gap, 7-11 and other high-profile brands visible in the show had well-planned promotional tie-ins.

What about Marlboro, Camel and other cigarette brands highlighted in Stranger Things, scene after scene? See for yourself.

We know product placement is valuable to brands.

Why else would America's biggest marketers spend an estimated $10 billion on it annually? Our latest ad in The Hollywood Reporter and Variety puts it bluntly:

Tobacco brands in movies and TV series look like paid product placement and act like paid product placement.

Cozying up to toxic tobacco brands in kids' entertainment is a bad look for Coca-Cola and Burger King. It confuses adult audiences, who can't tell who made a payoff and who didn't.

And it's dangerous to kids, who don't realize that dozens of commercials on streaming channels are inside the shows.

Forty-three state Attorneys General have been blunt, too.

The AGs have pushed to get tobacco product placement out of kids' films since the 1990s. Now, they've written the media companies a tough letter recommending the evidence-based solution:

Get tobacco out of the films and TV shows that kids watch, period.

You know who else can help? Coke and Burger King.

Big advertisers need to tell Big Media that they don't want their precious brands associated with addiction, disease and early death.

Coke and Burger King should declare they won't invest in brand integration in any show where Big Tobacco (apparently) gets a free ride. Big Media, in turn, will quickly realize how much tobacco brands can cost them, no matter what the show's rating.

Let's get things rolling. Send Coca-Cola and Burger King the Smokefree Movies ad printed out — or email them the link to it. Here are the addresses:


James Quincey, Chairman and CEO

The Coca-Cola Company

PO Box 1734

Atlanta, GA 30301 USA

Or email re marketing/advertising


Jose Cil, Chairman and CEO

Restaurant Brands International, Inc.

130 King St. West #300

Toronto, Ontario M5X 2A2 Canada

Or email Burger King customer feedback