Over the past decade, vaping has been labeled as a “healthier alternative” to smoking cigarettes. And in the face of research that suggests otherwise, vape companies have adopted marketing strategies reminiscent of big cigarette companies of the ’60s.
E-cig companies — and a e-cig “influencers” — are taking advantage of lax online ad regulations by inserting sneaky native ads that fly under the radar on platforms like YouTube.
DonnySmokes is the new Marlboro Man
Yesterday, Vice published an article about a lanky 21-year-old who, under the YouTube moniker “DonnySmokes,” posts reviews of e-cigs and reels in 3m monthly views from 120k subscribers.
E-cig brands pay DonnySmokes a substantial flat fee for a review in the hopes of reaching their target audience.
A new frontier
Back in the ’60s, brands like Marlboro and Camel used TV ads and the “cool factor” to hook young people on cigarettes. But by 1971, cig ads were banned on television — and today, these companies operate under strict marketing regulations.
In the (relatively) new frontier of the internet, e-cig companies are taking similar liberties, with less restrictions.
Couched in topics like “how to hide your JUUL from your parents,” DonnySmokes’ ads are often not marked as sponsored, and are aimed at a very young crowd who might have trouble distinguishing between a native ad and a genuine review.