Silk Cut Purple logo
|Produced by||Gallaher Group of Japan Tobacco|
Silk Cut is a brand of cigarettes produced by the Gallaher Group, a division of Japan Tobacco. The packaging is characterised by a distinctive stark white packet with the brand name in a purple, blue, red, silver, white or green square.
In the past, Silk Cut cigarettes contained approximately 75% tobacco, the rest of the filling being Cytrel, a cellulose-based tobacco substitute. In present day the addition of Cytrel has been abandoned, making the cigarette additive-free.
The brand increased in popularity around the world throughout the 1970s and 1980s as the dangers of cigarette smoking became well known and consumers switched to a lower tar brand. At 5 mg tar, Silk Cut contained less than half the tar content of stronger brands such as Benson and Hedges or Marlboro.
Production company Gallaher held a Royal Warrant of Appointment for 122 years, until the warrant was revoked in 1999 by Queen Elizabeth II; the Prince of Wales' rigorous anti-smoking campaigning is thought to be a major influence on that decision. Gallaher was allowed one year to remove the Royal Coat of Arms from the brand's packaging.
Silk Cut were also the title sponsors of rugby league's Challenge Cup for 16 years, between 1985 and 2001, and the competition was known as the 'Silk Cut Challenge Cup'. Silk Cut also sponsored the successful Jaguar XJR sportscars that competed in World Sportscar Championship, including the 24 Heures du Mans, but not in IMSA, where Castrol Oil was sponsor because of an IMSA ban on tobacco advertising as a result of IMSA's contract with Camel cigarettes.
It is now illegal to advertise tobacco in many countries and the adverts have stopped. In the 1990s Silk Cut was the best selling brand in the UK, but sales have declined behind cheaper budget brands as tax on tobacco has increased. In an attempt to counteract this, the manufacturers responded in the new millennium by introducing bevelled corners to redesigned regular gauge packaging, and marketing their first 'slim' cigarette in the UK, even though this wasn't the first 'slim' cigarette available in the UK as More, Karelia and Vogue are available in most tobacconists. Capri were available in the UK until the mid-1990s.
Silk Cut is also available in a lower tar version and an ultra low tar version with a tar content of only 0.1 mg. When terms such as 'light' and 'low tar' were made illegal to use in the UK for use of tobacco promotion (for fear that it deluded smokers into thinking such products were safer), some commentators predicted that Silk Cut's name and good brand-recognition as a low-tar product would favourably affect sales of the brand to health conscious consumers. Silk Cut Blue cigarettes contain 0.3 mg Nicotine and Tar content is 3 mg. Silk Cut Silver cigarettes contain 0.1 mg Nicotine and Tar content is 1 mg. Silk Cut White cigarettes contain 0.01 mg Nicotine and Tar content is 0.5 mg. Silk Cut cigarettes are also available in a '100s' range (superking size) and in a menthol variety.
It is a misconception that the tobacco in Silk Cuts contains less nicotine than other cigarette tobacco. The lower nicotine levels are caused by the design of the filter, which has many more holes than regular strength cigarette filters, to mix the smoke with air.
Silk Cut Surreal Advertising Campaign
Silk Cut was made popular by a surrealistic advertising campaign launched in 1983, in preparation for a ban on named tobacco advertising. By using the typical colours of the brand, the first surrealistic advertisement of Silk Cut showed a purple silk cloth with a single cut running through it, showing behind it a white background. The name of the cigarette brand never appears on this advertisement, nor are any other objects linked to smoking visible, i.e. packs of cigarettes or smoke. The only hint for the viewer that this ad concerns a cigarette brand at all is the mandatory health warning at the bottom.  Based on a series of works by avantgardist artist Lucio Fontana, this first advertisement represented a clever word play on the brand name Silk Cut. This kind of understated advertisement brought together art and life and was unprecedented except for a similar, but not as daring Benson and Hedges campaign in the 1970s.
The campaign went on to be a huge success, even making Silk Cut the best-selling brand at the beginning of the 1990s. Silk Cut went on to produce many more advertisements in this style, playing with surrealistic themes and pop cultural references, like Man Rays "Cadeau" as well as Alfred Hitchcocks famous shower curtain scene from the movie "Psycho"(1960). In later parts of the campaign they also created original surrealistic themes for the ads.
The main idea behind the use of surrealism for an advertising campaign was to catch the attention of the viewer by giving him or her a riddle to solve, i.e. guessing what product or brand was actually advertised. Only those who could link the images would eventually come to the conclusion that this is an advertisement for the cigarette brand Silk Cut. This worked as a rewarding sensation for the viewer, attaching positive emotions (for successfully solving the riddle) with the brand. But it was also possible to interprete darker and sexual themes into the images of the campaign, even though this was most likely not intended.
After a running time of almost two decades, the final poster in the series was in 2002 when all tobacco advertising in the UK was finally banned and showed an opera singer, wearing a purple silk dress which had split at the seams - a reference to the saying 'It's not over until the fat lady sings'. 
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