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Lorillard spends big on UK adverts for Blu (SkyCig)

Blu E-Cigarettes, which is owned by Lorillard Tobacco, which is being bought by Reynolds American, which is half-owned by British American Tobacco, has announced it will spend £20 million ($36 million) to advertise Blu E-Cigarettes in Britain. The advertising campaign will be supplemented by a promotional tour of electronic music groups in Manchester, Edinburgh, Brighton, and other UK locations.

North Carolina based Lorillard, which bought the American company Blu 2 years ago and pumped in enough money to make it the market leader, bought its second e-cig company, Britain's SkyCig, last October. Late in March, 2014, it announced that it was rebranding SkyCig as Blu in Britain. So the new adverts are actually the product of a rechristening.

Clearly, international Big Tobacco is moving large sums around with the ultimate objective of owning the e-cigarette industry. Market watchers, who tend to be impressed by large sums of money and little else, sometimes talk as though they already owned it. What does this mean to the vaper on the street, with her or his beloved mod? Perhaps not all that much, at least for the time being.

The Big Tobacco companies, which have been muscling in on the vaping supplies industry in the past couple of years, still deal primarily in cigalikes, e-cigarettes that look and feel quite like a combustible cigarette. Blu may come in colors other than cancer-stick white, and the tip may be, like 'duh', blue instead of burning-ash red, but the shape and feel is the same. Some influential industry observers expect them to move soon into the burgeoning area of tank systems, refillable cartridges, e-liquids, and more diverse vaping systems. There's money there, and Big Tobacco has a nose for money. But for the time being, Big Tobacco is aiming at smokers and ex-smokers who want a vape that closely mimics the experience of smoking a combustible, or "analogue", cigarette.

It would appear that the market Big Tobacco is going for, with its millions in advertising, is still primarily composed of newbies, smokers who want to quit, or to cut down with dual use, who want a cigarette-like object they can use in the workplace without stepping out into the cold. Seasoned vapers, many of whom have moved beyond imitation cigarettes, tend to be familiar with the second and third generation products; they know what they want, and are not as likely to be swayed by the blandishments of cigarette manufacturers.

Blu looks like it is positioning itself to move into 2nd and 3rd generation products. The new advert for British TV sports a final screen that reads "Blu e-cigarettes and E-liquids," along with the message "Freedom for the taking." Nonetheless, the e-liquid offerings on the product website seem to be available only in disposable cartridges for the time being. Also, the page on disposables uses language to suggest that they are a starter product ("Sample the pleasure of vaping..."), for newcomers to vaping, who may move on to other vaping systems later.

The music for the advert is provided by an LA band, and the actors depicted are exceedingly cool 20-somethings, who are renovating an urban space into a bitchin' party venue. Interestingly, we never see them vaping. But we know they do, and we know they vape Blu. Do you? Not likely, it would seem. Many seasoned vapers seem to share the response of Lindsay Fox of E-Cigarette Reviewed, who remarked: "It’s looking like Blu is destined to become the McDonalds of the e-cigarette industry; ubiquitous, lucrative and yet still downright poor as a product."

Fox fears that the future of vaping may consist of "Mega-corporations trying to shove second-rate products down your throat with the help of colossal advertising budgets." One may hope that future will be averted.