LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

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Anti-smoking ads won't halt teen smoking

Sadly, the $200 million, two-year Florida pilot program to "halt underage smoking," and the other programs that will follow, will disappoint many ("Tobacco marketers charge Fla. ads violate pact," AA, April 20).

Advertising is not responsible for teen smoking, and advertising will not make it go away. Advertising is a marketing tool employed to increase awareness, change consumer behavior and capture market share.

There is not a teen-ager alive who is unaware of the dangers of smoking. They know this because they have been told by parents, teachers, coaches, clergy, nurses, doctors, dentists, newspapers, magazines, TV and most of their friends since kindergarten.

In a marketplace where awareness of your message is universal, advertising is at a disadvantage.

According to a 1995 survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, only 16.1% of teen-agers smoke on a frequent basis. It is very difficult to move the needle when 85% of your prospects are already doing what you want. True, a single teen-ager saved from an early death, in say 2050, will be worthwhile. But it seems the money would be better spent in fighting things that will kill them this year, such as drunk driving, drug overdoses, drive-by shootings and abusive parents.

Florida has one thing right: Hollywood. I started smoking in high school. I cannot recall being influenced by advertising. I can, however, remember thinking I looked just like James Dean with that cigarette dangling from my lips.

Doug Laughlin

President, Laughlin, Marinaccio & Owens Advertising

Arlington, Va.

Maintaining brand image

Rance Crain's column "Losing touch, losing moxie, losing faith: single-brand company lament," (Viewpoint, AA, March 30) was on target, and you could add several others to that list. The established brands have to be fed or, in the case of General Motors' brands, given a transfusion.

These organizations seem to have thrown away common sense. Not only do they stop brand building, they dismiss and take for granted long-term customers by directing their ads to what they feel is their new market, and discard many of the marketing practices that built their companies. And [they] wonder why they lose these customers.

These companies seems to forget what my old professor used to preach: "It is much easier to maintain share and brand image then to regain it once it's lost."

For various reasons, the new guy on the block does not worry about building brand image and share, but the established guy has got to work at both of these angles all of the time. Unfortunately, they usually look at share and forget image.

Image is tough. There is no immediate payoff. You can't just drop a coupon, give rebates or offer confusing lower phone rates. But when the bottom falls out, they find themselves on a greased fire pole. Look around and see what has happened to the country's top brands.

If a crisis were to hit any of these top companies (a la the Tylenol poison scare or Texaco's racial discrimination scandal), they would be hard hit as they have destroyed much of the loyalty they had in reserve.

Name withheld by request

New York

Over-targeted

In "First ads for Census 2000 carry a warning" (AA, April 13), you reference that the ads target the general population, African-Americans, Asian-Americans and Native Americans.

If you put a period after "general population" you would have covered the entire audience. Then why were groups broken down into segments that "do not fit" into "the" general population?

The [Letters column] cartoon in this same issue was so ironically apropos. Everything is a brand, but no one is the "general population." Both are wrong assumptions to marketers that should know better. A brand is a brand. And Americans are the "general population" of America.

Thomas J. Coyne III

Coyne Communications

Morristown, N.J.

`Bizarre' choice by TWA

Am I the only person to find it bizarre that Trans World Airlines, which experienced a tragedy when one of its planes exploded over the Atlantic and disappeared from radar, features Amelia Earhart, an aviatrix who disappeared over the Pacific, in its new advertising ("TWA aims for biz travelers with `famous aviator' ads," AA, March 30)? Why not Will Rogers? Buddy Holly? Stevie Ray Vaughan?

If I'm alone in finding TWA's new campaign strange, then perhaps Mercedes should consider featuring the late Princess of Wales in its advertising.

Thomas Dryden

Taylor Dryden Partners

Westport, Conn

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