Alcohol is next in line to come under the cosh. Drinking alcohol in public places is now banned in most UK towns and cities and recently the London Borough of Croydon announced plans to follow Scotland's lead by examining a ban on selling alcohol to under-21s.
In Ireland, this summer saw restrictions on the advertising of alcohol at a reduced price or for free, as well as banning the use of supermarket bonus points or loyalty cards for the purchase of liquor. The draconian level of regulation in wine-swilling France means the country may be set to join the Muslim states that forbid internet alcohol advertising, sales and even vineyard websites. With binge drinking never out of the UK news, the restrictions may be set to traverse the Channel.
In this new era, a fresh approach to marketing will be required, one that employs a host of new media, from social bloggers to YouTube.
McDonald's, not usually the stealthiest of advertisers, recently launched its Lost Ring campaign - a virtual reality viral game aimed at promoting the brand's partnership with the Olympics - with not a hint of the golden arches in sight.
At Toast we've worked successfully with a British-based multinational tobacco company for years. I believe the increase in 'dark' marketing - effectively marketing a product where business-to-consumer channels are restricted or non-existent - will trigger big changes in the world of retail. With any direct advertising to the consumer becoming increasingly off limits, the focus will be firmly on B2B. Manufacturers will use their trade partners to ensure their product is presented to customers in the best possible way.
Consequently, the point of sale will take on a new importance. Given that it is retailers who control this space, manufacturers will have to enter more collaborative relationships with retail and wholesale partners to ensure their brand has the competitive edge.
With traditional advertising less of an option, the importance of one-to-one communication, whether it be direct mail or via a brand ambassador, takes on a key role. Manufacturers need to start building user groups now, before potential regulation threatens a clampdown, because it will be increasingly difficult to build these groups without access to broadcast media.
Advertisers will also need increasingly to interface with the consumer via the pack itself. Hence the importance of limited-edition packs in gaining salience on shelf. Keeping the brand looking fresh, while maintaining brand identity, will become increasingly important.
Marketing in a dark environment has already changed the playing field for tobacco companies. To stay ahead of the game, other brands staring imminent regulation in the face must ensure they have a strong relationship with their retailers. And they need to start planning now, because the legislators are on the march.
Michael Beattie is director of planning at integrated marketing agency Toast.