Negotiations are in the final stages for the American Cancer Society to be title sponsor for the series of TV spots and other activities that will aim at preventing children from smoking.
`WE WOULD BE THRILLED'
"We are talking to them. We would be thrilled to partner with them," said Susan Islam, director of media relations for the society. "The synergy would be really terrific."
Ad Council President Ruth Wooden said her group is in "very serious talks" with the cancer society.
Executives of advertising groups who sit on the Ad Council told Advertising Age early this year that a council public service campaign would be one of the industry's alternatives to Food & Drug Administration tobacco ad rules. The ad industry is challenging those rules in court; the initial decision on the case is expected the week of April 21.
The American Cancer Society had a history of producing major antismoking PSAs in the 1960s, '70s and '80s-two of its most famous spots featured actors Bill Talman (Hamilton Berger in "Perry Mason") and Yul Brynner, when both were dying of cancer.
Antismoking groups produced far fewer ads in recent years, citing the difficulty of getting public service ads on the air following Federal Communications Commission rule changes that prompted broadcasters to lessen the number of PSAs they run.
Ms. Wooden, FCC Chairman Reed Hundt and Ad Council Chairman Alex Kroll all spoke at the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas last week urging an increase in the time devoted to PSAs in general.
Ms. Islam said she hopes the Ad Council's backing will help get the spots aired.
TOBACCO A TOP PRIORITY
"Tobacco is one of our top priorities," she said. "Sometimes we have programs where one group buys into it and another does not. Everybody buys into tobacco."
Ms. Wooden noted that the Ad Council already works with the cancer society on colon and breast cancer campaigns and, she said, both sides want to make sure there are serious, long-term commitments to the campaign.
"We don't want to get in and get out of this," Ms. Wooden said. "We want to have a minimum five-year commitment."