Anti-smoking campaign delayed

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Washington state Attorney General Christine Gregoire has ordered revisions that will tone down the $200 million-plus American Legacy Foundation anti-smoking campaign.

Ms. Gregoire, who heads the foundation's board, asked for the changes because of fears that the ads could violate the pact state attorneys general signed with tobacco makers to fund the campaign.

Ms. Gregoire negotiated the advertising portion of the Master Settlement Agreement states reached with tobacco companies that created the foundation.


Noting that "changes have been made" in the campaign from Arnold Communications, Boston, and Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Miami, she said one spot was scrapped entirely "because I was concerned about taste." The revised effort is likely to break this week.

The delay in the launch of the heralded anti-smoking campaign comes as TV networks raise objections to the effort.

One network executive told Advertising Age that early ad proposals looked more like advocacy ads than anti-smoking ads. "We do not accept advocacy ads," he said.

However, Bill Furmanski, the foundation's communications manager, said that some networks have already approved the foundation's ads.


The national effort is modeled on the "Truth" anti-smoking campaign produced for the Florida Department of Public Health in 1997. It was created by Crispin Porter & Bogusky as part of a two-year pilot program aimed at preventing underage smoking. It drew the ire of tobacco marketers by portraying them and their "partners" as evil and dastardly.

An early print execution that ran in the Los Angeles Times said, "Attention movie industry: We're your best customers. So why are you trying to kill us?" The copy suggested that gratuitous smoking in films should be stopped.

One TV ad that ran in Florida more recently presented "the 125th Demon Awards," an Academy Awards-type telecast with an award for "most deaths in a single year." The nominees were "suicide," "illicit drugs," "tobacco" and "murder," all represented by tuxedoed men. When "tobacco" was mentioned, the industry nominee applauded himself.

Chuck Wolfe, then director of the Florida pilot program and now exec VP of the American Legacy Foundation, said at the time that the state had done considerable research with kids and the stick-it-to-the-industry tone of the "Truth" campaign was dictated by the research.

Tobacco companies that were paying for the campaign, however, complained the effort violated the spirit of the state's settlement pact.


Despite complaining about Florida, tobacco marketers' only action was to include stronger language about what could be done in advertising in the subsequent settlement with 46 other states that created the foundation.

"The National Public Education Fund shall be used only for public education and advertising regarding the addictiveness, health effects and social costs related to the use of tobacco products and shall not be used for any personal attack on, or vilification of, any person, company or governmental agency, whether individually or collectively," reads the Master Settlement Agreement.

Neither Ms. Gregoire nor Mr. Wolfe last week would describe the final ads that will air, but Ms. Gregoire said she rejected a recommendation to run the "Demon Award" spot as potentially violating the agreement.

"I want to be in absolute compliance with the settlement," she said, adding that some proposed ads appeared to be "vilification" of the industry.

Copyright January 2000, Crain Communications Inc.

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