Despite the refusal of the Big 3 networks to clear a single one of its ads, the American Legacy Foundation is vowing to go ahead with its edgy $150 million anti-tobacco advertising campaign.
Although none of the networks would comment, ABC and CBS have so far turned down all of the spots, while NBC was still evaluating the commercials. Two ads are set to break tonight on several cable networks and perhaps Fox. WB Networks had also not approved the spots as of press time.
For its part, the foundation remained confident the ads would eventually clear. "We can't imagine any network not wanting to run our ads since the end result will be saving young people's lives," said Bill Furmanski, the foundation's communications manager.
"It was created to catch the attention of adolescent viewers. That may make a few people uncomfortable," said Anthony Farina, press secretary for Delaware Gov. Thomas Carper, a member of the foundation's Board. "But the fact is that many of the networks geared toward teens and adolescents . . . will be airing the ads and promise to have a great deal of impact."
Lisa Unsworth, exec VP-group director at Arnold Communications, Boston, the lead agency involved in the effort, said, "I think the networks will ultimately run them."
The foundation was formed as a result of an agreement tobacco companies reached with state attorneys general settling state tobacco lawsuits. It calls for tobacco makers to put about $300 million into various activities including a national advertising effort.
The national ad campaign was toned down amid concerns it would violate part of the pact with tobacco makers that bars "vilification" of the tobacco industry.
The initial foundation spots appear to be commercials for other products that are irresponsibly made or defective, said Alex Bogusky, vice chairman and creative director at Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Miami, another agency involved in the effort.
"Within the commercial, the product [a cola, pimple cream, basketball shoe or rental car] has something go terribly wrong. The point is it would never happen with any other product but tobacco."
The four related spots use the theme "There is only one product that actually kills a third of the people who use it. Tobacco." The campaign's overall theme is "Truth."
Media executives said before the campaign was toned down, the original line was "There is only one industry that actually kills a third of the people."
Although the foundation denies it, the lack of clearance could be a setback for the campaign, considering that all the initial ads are planned for TV. Print and other media will follow in spring as will ads in Hispanic media.
Tobacco marketers declined comment on the national effort until they could see the ads.
Copyright February 2000, Crain Communications Inc.