BACKERS LINE UP FOR ANTI-CIG CAMPAIGN: AD COUNCIL CONTACTED BY 3 HEALTH-RELATED GROUPS

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The Advertising Council, searching for health groups willing to sponsor a planned anti-smoking campaign, has found too many.

Three different groups have asked to be the sponsor named in public service announcements aimed at preventing teen-agers from smoking, said Ruth Wooden, Ad Council president-CEO.

Ms. Wooden declined to name the groups, but confirmed that among them is the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

She said that news of the Ad Council's hopes to do a campaign as part of its push to focus on problems affecting children also brought an outpouring of mail as well as phone calls.

"We've gotten a lot of notes. People are very supportive," she said.

REQUESTED BY AD GROUPS

The Ad Council's campaign was requested by major ad-industry organizations, including the American Association of Advertising Agencies. The ad groups acknowledged in a recent interview with Advertising Age editors (see Page 20) that the campaign is in part an industry answer to the Food & Drug Administration's efforts to limit tobacco advertising.

Ad and media groups are strongly opposed to the FDA regulations and have filed one of the lawsuits that will be heard next week in U.S. District Court in Greensboro, N.C., challenging the limitations.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, on the other hand, is an avowed backer of the FDA restrictions and has run ads urging legislators to support the rules.

"Tobacco companies claim they don't target kids. Yet they're in court, right now, trying to block a sensible Food & Drug Administration rule to protect kids from tobacco marketing and sales," says a print ad for the group from Smith & Harroff, Alexandria, Va., set to run this week in Washington-area publications. The print ad will be accompanied by radio spots.

CDC TALKING TO AD COUNCIL

The Centers for Disease Control also is among the groups talking to the Ad Council, though the chief of the tobacco health communication branch says he's somewhat cautious after past experience in trying to get PSAs aired.

"It's a long overdue effort by the advertising community. But it's got to be basically thought out," said Jeff McKenna. He said he was also concerned that the messages be strong enough to be effective.

Ms. Wooden said there has been no discussion of creative for a campaign, or the pro bono ad agency. Instead, she has asked the three groups to meet to see if they can develop a joint campaign.

From 1969 to '71, the year the broadcast cigarette ad ban became law, one anti-smoking PSA was mandated to run for every four or five cigarette spots on TV. They then stopped.

The CDC supported anti-smoking ads until several years ago, when it decided the cost of producing new ones wasn't worth the amount of airtime received; it chose instead to distribute state-produced ads.

Greg Connelly, director of Massachusetts' anti-smoking program, still questions the worth of PSAs, comparing them to "a message aimed at telling children not to get into a car with strangers that airs at a time when only the strangers are watching."

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