Philip Morris USA's unilateral decision to pull its ads from more than 40 magazines that state attorneys general contend reach too many underage readers is producing accusations from one rival.
A spokeswoman for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. said June 6 the attorneys general are trying to hold tobacco marketers to "an arbitrary and capricious standard that ultimately points toward banning cigarette advertising.'' RJR suggested PM's motive in reversing years of similar opposition may be to try to freeze its dominant market share. "You have to ask, in accepting further [ad] restrictions, whom does that hurt?'' the RJR spokeswoman said. "It doesn't hurt the brand that four in 10 smokers are smoking.'' She also said RJR is complying with the deal signed earlier with attorneys general, and suggested the latest moves are an attempt to treat a product that is legal as illegal.
At Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., a spokesman said B&W too would pull ads but only when better readership data become available. A new Simmons Market Research Bureau study featuring a much more comprehensive attempt to judge readership of all those over age 6 in a family is due next month.
PM said it would remove its ads from any title whose underage readership either totals 2 million or is more than 15% of the magazine's readers, a figure the Food & Drug Administration had unsuccessfully sought to impose.
There was no immediate comment from the magazines PM is crossing off. They include such varied, major titles as Better Homes & Gardens, Newsweek, Parade, Sports Illustrated and Vogue. Christine Miller, exec VP-chief marketing officer at the Magazine Publishers of America, called PM's decision "not thrilling.'' "What we have said all along is that the data and research being used to determine teen readership are flawed. It still is,'' she said. "It combines adult and teen surveys that use different methodologies. It is not anything anyone believes to be correct.''
Magazines publishers have challenged curbs based on readership, arguing studies of underage readership data are poor and incomplete. PM conceded the research shortcomings but said it had used current Mediamark Research Inc. and Simmons studies to come up with its list.
PM will stop using the magazines after current ad schedules run their course. The magazines are Allure, Better Homes & Gardens, Cable Guide, Car Craft, Car & Driver, Cosmopolitan, Ebony, Elle, Entertainment Weekly, Essence, Field & Stream, 4-Wheel & Off-Road, Glamour, Hot Rod, Hunting, Jet, Mademoiselle, Motorcyclist, Motor Trend, National Enquirer, Newsweek, Outdoor Life, Parade, People, Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, Premiere, Rolling Stone, Self, Soap Opera Digest, Soap Opera Weekly, Spin, Sport, Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, Star, True Story, TV Guide, Us, USA Weekend, Vibe and Vogue.
Copyright June 2000, Crain Communications Inc.