For issue advocates and policy opponents, an ad campaign may become a necessary part of any future lobbying fight, inside and outside the Beltway.
"Not many people will spend as much as tobacco, but there is a chance that this will create a whole new industry," said David Doak, president of Doak, Carrier,
O'Donnell & Associates, Washington, who credits the "Harry & Louise" campaign against the Clinton healthcare proposal four years ago for starting the trend.
FIVE BIGGEST JOINED
The tobacco campaign began March 11 and was sponsored by the country's five biggest tobacco companies. TV spots from Bozell/Eskew, Washington, first supported a plan by state attorneys general to settle issues but soon were changed to suggest Congress was trying to raise taxes.
At the height of the campaign, the ads aired on CNN and in more than 50 markets, with some print.
Tobacco marketers ended the campaign Sept. 15 because further prospects for passing tobacco legislation in Congress appeared to be unlikely.
Critics of the tobacco industry have filed complaints with several government agencies, charging that the continued airing of the ads was a payoff to Republican leaders, aimed at protecting legislators who violated federal campaign financing and lobbying laws.
Tobacco marketers denied that running the campaign until last week had any goal beyond its original intent.
The anti-tobacco groups, which never significantly countered the ad campaign while Congress was debating legislation, announced a counter-effort one day after tobacco marketers halted their ads.
`A BIG LIE'
The American Cancer Society, which generally doesn't pay for advertising, said its directors authorized the expenditure of $5 million for paid TV spots that accuse the tobacco companies of "a big lie."
The ads -- produced by Squier Knapp Ochs Dunn, Washington, a Democratic campaign agency, and Murphy, Pintak Gautier Hudome, Falls Church, Va., a GOP shop -- will air on CNN and in seven or eight markets for a period of 17 days.
The tobacco campaign "was aimed at blowing smoke in the eyes of Congress," said Robert Squier, president at Squier Knapp.
John Gautier, a partner in Murphy Pintak, and Mark Mellman, a political pollster, told Advertising Age that polling showed the industry's campaign didn't change the public's perception about tobacco but that it may have given legislators reason to think they didn't have to act.
Both Messrs. Squier and Gautier said there was a need for critics of tobacco to respond to the industry's ads, and hoped that the American Cancer Society's willingness to advertise might influence other groups to follow suit on controversial issues in the future.
"It might embolden others" to advertise on various issues, said Mr. Squier.