F1 News, Views and Reviews

Ferrari and Marlboro Accused Of Subliminal Advertising By British Doctors

Scuderia Ferrari and their title sponsor the Marlboro cigarette company have been accused by some British doctors of creating a subliminal advertising message through the use of the bar-code Marlboro block out on the rear of their Formula One cars.

Since 2002 there have been heavy restrictions in place regarding tobacco sponsorship, which were pushed into Formula One in 2005 when majority of the cigarette advertisers who had been in the sport for years left.  Marlboro remained with Ferrari, but the last time their logo was used was in 2007 with instead the use of a bar-code insignia on the cars to state where their advert should be.

This contravenes no rules or regulations, however doctors who helped outlaw tobacco advertising in an attempt to reduce smoking take up and use say that the bar code makes a subliminal message encouraging people to start.

“The bar code looks like the bottom half of a packet of Marlboro cigarettes. I was stunned when I saw it,” John Britton, a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and director of its tobacco advisory group told The Times.

“This is pushing at the limits. If you look at how the bar code has evolved over the last four years, it looks like a creeping branding.”

However Ferrari have hit back and released this statement

“Today and in recent weeks, articles have been published relating to the partnership contract between Scuderia Ferrari and Philip Morris International, questioning its legality. These reports are based on two suppositions: that part of the graphics featured on the Formula 1 cars are reminiscent of the Marlboro logo and even that the red colour which is a traditional feature of our cars is a form of tobacco publicity.

Neither of these arguments have any scientific basis, as they rely on some alleged studies which have never been published in academic journals. But more importantly, they do not correspond to the truth. The so called barcode is an integral part of the livery of the car and of all images coordinated by the Scuderia, as can be seen from the fact it is modified every year and, occasionally even during the season. Furthermore, if it was a case of advertising branding, Philip Morris would have to own a legal copyright on it.

The partnership between Ferrari and Philip Morris is now only exploited in certain initiatives, such as factory visits, meetings with the drivers, merchandising products, all carried out fully within the laws of the various countries where these activities take place. There has been no logo or branding on the race cars since 2007, even in countries where local laws would still have permitted it.

The premise that simply looking at a red Ferrari can be a more effective means of publicity than a cigarette advertisement seems incredible: how should one assess the choice made by other Formula 1 teams to race a car with a predominantly red livery or to link the image of a driver to a sports car of the same colour? Maybe these companies also want to advertise smoking! It should be pointed out that red has been the recognised colour for Italian racing cars since the very beginning of motor sport, at the start of the twentieth century: if there is an immediate association to be made, it is with our company rather than with our partner.”

It is an interesting point, however there has been no previous discussion that the bar code was used for an effect to make smokers start.  I reckon a fair few people know that the brand is Marlboro, such has been the partnership.  It brings up a question in my mind then, to why Rizla the maker of cigarette papers and filters are allowed to openly sponsor the Suzuki MotoGp team?  I mean if a bar code can resemble a cigarette packet and make a subliminal advertising case, then surely advertising everything but the tobacco itself is encouraging people towards it?  Its tough ground, and very complicated but there is one certainty, Ferrari do NOT colour the cars red because of Marlboro!

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One response

  1. JENSON

    FERRARI IS TAKING THE PISS OUT OF THE AUTHORITIES AND THE TOBACCO LEGISLATION. THE WHITE RECTANGLE IS EXACTLY THE SAME AS THE TOP OF A BOX OF MARLBORO MEDIUM, I CANNOT BELIEVE THEY KEEP GETTING AWAY WITH THIS!

    May 7, 2010 at 7:43 am

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