Simon Mowbray
Tobacco giant Gallaher is to use the last week of mainstream tobacco advertising to push a new sibling brand for Benson & Hedges.
B&H Silver officially launches at the end of this month, positioned as a "value for money" alternative to Special Filter, or Gold as it will be known.
But heavyweight advertising for the new Silver brand, which is up to 50p cheaper than its more established relative, will feature in tabloid newspapers now because of the impending blanket ban on consumer advertising from midnight on Thursday (February 13).
Gallaher has also booked advertising slots on billboards and magazines for Silk Cut and B&H Gold as part of last-minute pushes for both brands before the ban comes into force. Matthew Grose, the company's brand manager for cigarettes, said some of the new Silver stock would start filtering into retailers and wholesalers from now on as the company aimed to "hit the ground running" when the brand officially launches on February 24.
He insisted the newcomer was not just a light version of Gold, even though it contains 8mg of tar compared to Gold's 11mg and 0.6mg of nicotine to Gold's 0.9mg.
"It is not a light variant and will not be positioned as such," said Grose. "We are giving consumers the option to purchase a value for money cigarette while still buying into the Benson & Hedges name."
However, Grose, who said £3m had been earmarked to promote Silver, including sampling in the post-advertising ban era, declined to predict how well the new brand would do. "We are not making predictions in terms of sales figures but we are confident this will be a big brand," he added.
Booker's tobacco buyer, Danny Ayton, said the newcomer was a welcome arrival in a market which is up in value but down in volume.
"Silver will appeal to smokers who want a cheaper cigarette but might be embarrassed by existing brands, particularly when they have to get them out in the pub," he said.
"This product tries to fulfil the role of a mid-priced offering with established brand credentials."