Profile: Public Health Report - Smoke-free future, Adam Collett, Marketing director, Greene King Pub Company

James Bond needs a licence to kill. We'll soon need a licence to smoke,' says Adam Collett, marketing director for the Greene King Pub Company. The quip is typical of a man with strong opinions and the conviction to voice them, on issues from smoking in public places to binge- and underage-drinking.

A 40-year-old non-smoker and advocate of a customer's right to choice, he manages a team of 25 and has seen the company expand from a £45m turnover brewery 10 years ago to a £332m food, drink and accommodation business.

It is exactly the sort of pubs portfolio that was put under the spotlight last week by the public health White Paper, which proposes that 90% of pubs should be smoke-free by 2008, while the remainder will allow smoking but have no permit to sell food.

Collett's willingness to speak openly marks him out from the majority of marketing directors in his sector, who, when approached by Marketing, refused to voice their concerns publicly.

He is frustrated by the government's lack of understanding of the industry.

'If we stop selling food from three o'clock, can we then become a smoking pub? If we have a separate entrance to another room, can customers smoke there?'

Confusion for customers and the subsequent impact on staff are also key worries for Collett. 'They will have to know which pubs they can and can't smoke in, and in turn that will cause conflict with staff. The government must back this with an ad campaign that will make it clear to customers at large, rather than leaving it up to operators.'

For all his concerns, preparations at his company were already advanced before the White Paper appeared. Collett says Greene King, which owns the 750 Hungry Horse, Old English Inns, Wayside Inns and Giant's Plate chains, along with Greene King and other non-branded pubs, is better placed than rivals Wetherspoons and Hogshead, as it already has a smoking strategy in place.

It has designated 30 pubs across all its chains as smoke-free zones under guidelines created by the British Beer & Pub Association, with smoking only permitted in the garden. 'We see the no-smoking offer as a means to differentiate ourselves from other chains.'

In the future, Collett says all pubs will have to clearly indicate whether they are smoking or food pubs. Although he acknowledges that pubs that do allow smoking could one day be in big demand, he says pub retailers cannot 'push' the smoking message overtly.

Hungry Horse marketing manager David Scott, who has worked with Collett for the past five years, says his colleague is not afraid to speak his mind. 'He has a clear strategy that we should tackle these issues proactively rather than waiting for them to hit us. He is not frightened to stick his head above the parapet and tell people how he feels.'

Collett will take his views, along with those of his peers, to the government in an attempt to make the White Paper workable. He proposes maintaining a degree of flexibility, whereby food and kids' areas in pubs are smoke-free, while a smoking area or room can be set aside, assuring no 'air transfer' of smoke.

Given the scale of the challenge his industry faces, Collett is remarkably upbeat. Although the pub trade in Ireland reported a 15% fall in sales after a smoking ban was imposed in March, he is confident restrictions here will not adversely affect Greene King. 'We've seen real growth in food and this will outweigh any drop in smoking customers.'

A ban, he says, would actually drive sales, because although 25% of adults smoke, a smoky pub atmosphere deters a large number of potential customers.

Collett has a right to be confident that the future of his pubs portfolio lies in its food offering. Last week Hungry Horse was named retail brand of the year by the Pub Food Awards 2004.

'Public inclusivity' is central to the purpose of pubs, says Collett.

'Beer, food and fruit machines are all part of that, but primarily it's about having fun. We want choice for customers of all types. We can't spoil that. Pubs are thriving.'


1986-1988: Graduate trainee, Grand Metropolitan (now Diageo)

1988-1990: Marketing executive, Argos

1990-1994: Marketing manager, Whitbread

1994-2000: Marketing manager rising to marketing director, Greene King

Brewing & Brands

2000-present: Marketing director, Greene King Pub Company


Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus
Brand Republic Jobs

subscribe now


Ex-Thomas Cook marketer Mike Hoban resurfaces at Morrisons
Barbour creates real-time illustrations of consumers' stories for summer campaign
Viral review: Samsung goes for Apple’s jugular but fails to connect
View from Brazil: why we didn't believe we could lose the World Cup
Heineken unveils ‘Open Your City’ drive with Metro for ‘men of the world’
Unilever continues portfolio 'reshaping' with Slim-Fast sale
Amazon to fight US authorities over in-app purchase claims
Google set to invest $100m in Europe's tech start-ups
Metcalfe's set to release quirky debut TV ad
Samsung pities the iPhone 'wall huggers'
Smirnoff campaign aims to make Formula One less elitist
Apple wins EU battle to register store layout as trademark
Marketing directors need to step outside 'marketing box' to earn seat on the board
Hottest virals: Burger King’s emotional gay pride Whopper ad, plus Apple and Guinness
Developer creates software enabling Google Glass mind-control
Kick-ass girl beats up shopping centre staff in music video
Top 10 ads of the week: Aldi's World Cup cider ad scores with consumers
Sony relives Germany's 7-1 victory against Brazil in Subbuteo Vine
Burberry credits 9% revenue hike on strong online sales and 'more targeted marketing'
Ritz returns to UK TV screens after 30-year hiatus
Mars creates chief health and wellbeing officer role
Brands make the most of Germany's dramatic victory over Brazil
Adios Justin King! Watch our video tribute as he leaves Sainsbury's after a decade
Nike calls time on 13-year Manchester United kit deal
Three TV ad banned over misleading 'free' call claims
GNM boss David Pemsel: 'The Guardian has got its mojo back'
M&S has missed a massive opportunity to put digital strategy at its heart
Google partners with the Barbican to show coders are artists
Samaritans encourages men to talk about issues with #DownNotOut campaign
Lego's partnership with Shell 'not awesome', according to Greenpeace viral