With the rise of new alternatives to traditional cigarettes, big tobacco are forced to adapt. It is in this competitive context that Philip Morris released the IQOS. Standing for I Quit Ordinary Smoking, the IQOS is a heat-not-burn device, and its success is no mystery.
The tobacco giant allegedly hired sales personnel to promote the IQOS, encouraging them to push the product beyond the scope of their contract. This contract, considered “illegal” by a number of company employees, has led to legal proceedings between a group of 13 ex-employees and Philip Morris.
In order to promote the HNB device, Philip Morris contracted a number of salespersons from the CPM marketing agency. The three-month contract stipulated that they needed to present the IQOS and help new users lern more about the revolutionary product. However, it seems the reality of the job was another story entirely!
A contract considered illegal by former Philip Morris employees
First reported on March 22nd by Le Parisien, the IQOS advertising scandal is now the subject of a legal battle. It seems the 13 sales contractors hired by Philip Morris were pressured by the firm to aggressively promote the IQOS device.
During a training session on the functions and features of the device, they were first asked to try out the product, when none of them were smokers in the first place. Of course, the argument regarding the alleged zero chances of adverse health affects was highlighted extensively by trainers, but the employees were simply not convinced.
While the objective of the IQOS promotional campaign was to showcase the product to the general public, the sales contractors were encouraged to promote it within their own networks. With the contractual requirements of hitting sales targets, they were pushed to promote the product to their friends and family, to grab a casual drink and have their personal contacts try out the device.
The former Philip Morris employees are now denouncing contractual requirements that went against their personal values. Testing this “revolutionary” cigarette product without knowing the potential side effects, and pushing their own friends and family to pick up the habit, was far from their stated objective when signing up. They added that tobacco advertising and promotion is illegal, an obviously relevant point. Now they are suing for damages and the tobacco giant has fount itself in a delicate position.