THE POLITICS OF VICE;CAMPAIGN '96: ONCE CAMPAIGNS WERE DECIDED IN SMOKE-FILLED ROOMS; NOW THE POLS ARE LIGHTING DEBATES OVER PRODUCT ADS

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The politics of vice

Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole is trailed these days by two packs: one of reporters, and the other a cigarette icon called Butt Man.

Butt Man, a supporter of President Clinton who dresses as a cigarette, tries to stay near Sen. Dole to point out differences in the two men's stands on tobacco-and in part their differences on restrictions on cigarette advertising.

Welcome to Campaign '96, or perhaps "Campaign Advertising: The Next Generation." This election year, in a strange reversal of the traditional debate over the ethics of political advertising, the growing debate is over the ethics of tobacco, liquor and even "too sexy" clothing advertising.

"Historically, the character/cultural values are not typically presidential issues," said Stephen Hess, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a think tank. This year, the candidates "are suddenly running as if they are running for chief clergyman or rabbi"-a change he attributes to the rise in importance of religious groups in shaping the debate.

Though liquor and sexy ads lurk in the background, tobacco is the key issue right now, with Sen. Dole on the hot seat as news reports played up his positions on-and con-tributions from-the tobacco industry.

President Clinton on Friday admitted Democrats accepted some tobacco money, too, but claimed much less-and much different results.

"We had the repeated opposition of Sen. Dole to what we're trying to do to restrict the advertising of tobacco products to children," said Mr. Clinton. "The American people should look at where Food & Drug Administration issues final rules aimed at restricting tobacco advertising and, with that, unleashing further broadsides from President Clinton aimed at Sen. Dole, who has questioned the FDA's jurisdiction and the legality of its restrictions (see SPINdex, Page 13).

Despite Sen. Dole's disagreement with President Clinton over the FDA's authority to act and the constitutionality of such actions, and his earlier comments, he was decidedly less specific in opposing ad bans last week.

"I am aware of and support efforts to prevent cigarette machines from being located, at the very least, in places frequented by minors, and to limit cigarette advertising in and around schools and in magazines read by children," Sen. Dole wrote in a June 27 letter to former Surgeon Gen. C. Everett Koop.

Not only is it likely President Clinton will use the Democratic National Convention Aug. 26-29 to attack Sen. Dole on tobacco and its advertising, there's a very good chance his campaign advertising will blast away on the subject, too. That would create the unusual spectacle of political commentators analyzing political advertising blasting product advertising.

It hasn't always been this way. While political advertising has been controversial of late, advertising itself hasn't been much of an issue in presidential campaigns. But 1996 isn't exactly a traditional year.

"If the economy was bad, you can be sure what the campaign would be about," Mr. Hess said. "If Americans are getting killed in Bosnia, you can be sure. But if you have big issues like crime, when everybody is talking about how not to spend money, you might as well talk about something that doesn't cost money."

Pointing to controversial ads or advertising catch phrases in speeches is tempting to politicians because it calls to mind imagery that offers a quick hook to gain voters' attention, say marketers.

"The whole family-values issues and the emphasis on the protection of children in our society makes all of these issues on the surface appear beneficial and logical to society," said Hal Shoup, exec VP of the American Association of Advertising Agencies. "It doesn't take an opportunistic politician very long to figure that out."

Family values might have put marketing and the media on the political agenda anyway this year, but recent events have certainly raised the industry's visibility. First, timing has conspired to keep tobacco advertising alive as an issue throughout the campaign; a court challenge of FDA's authority to regulate tobacco is unlikely to get decided before the election. Further, Congress itself is unlikely to act soon.

Finally, the Clinton administration already has rejected-at least for the moment-a settlement of the FDA/tobacco issue proposed by Philip Morris Cos., in accepting some federal restrictions providing the FDA doesn't regulate ads.

"It's just not enough. It's very short of a serious offer," Health & Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala told Advertising Age.

So the only expected action is issuance of regulations-and that could come on the anniversary of the FDA's original proposal, which just happens to be a few days before the Aug. 12 start of the Republican National Convention.

The debate over liquor advertising on TV, kicked off by Seagram Co.'s decision to advertise on a Texas TV station, has added fuel to the fire, particularly for the Clinton campaign.

Sen. Dole earlier told the media: "We know [smoking's] not good for kids, but a lot of other things aren't good. Drinking's not good. Some would say milk's not good."

"There is a big difference on this issue," said Ann Lewis, deputy campaign manager for the Clinton/Gore '96 campaign. "It speaks to the difference in the ways you strengthen a family. Once you get past all the rhetoric, Dole is not willing to support government regulation. The political science of Bob Dole and Republican Party involvement with tobacco interests will not go away, and we are going to have a running discussion."

Republicans say too much is being made of that quote and of the tobacco issue.

"He was making a simple observation that the argument can be made that anything is bad for you," said Christina Martin, deputy press secretary for the Dole for President Committee.

"What one needs to keep in mind is that both men agree that teens should not get tobacco products. Bob Dole is willing to address this the first day he comes into office; Clinton has waited 31/2 years. Bob Dole's answer is through education and Clinton's is through regulation and higher taxes," she said.

She also noted that Democrats as well as Republicans have received campaign contributions from the tobacco industry.

Still, Ms. Lewis said the quote points up differences between the two candidates that the Clinton campaign hopes to exploit.

"The record of contributions, the alliance with the tobacco industry and the maladroit way in which Mr. Dole handled it with a bizarre comparison to milk ..... I don't know anyone who can't tell the difference between tobacco and milk."MProduct ads cloud

Clinton, Dole contest

I stand and where he stands."

"I've been amazed at the debate that's injected itself into the national campaign on this issue," he said earlier in the week.

Within weeks, that will intensify as the Food & Drug Administration issues final rules aimed at restricting tobacco advertising and, with that, unleashing further broadsides (see SPINdex, Page 13).

A SHIFT BY DOLE

Despite Sen. Dole's earlier comments outlining his disagreement with President Clinton over the FDA's authority to act and the constitutionality of such actions, he was decidedly less specific in opposing ad bans last week.

"I am aware of and support efforts to prevent cigarette machines from being located, at the very least, in places frequented by minors, and to limit cigarette advertising in and around schools and in magazines read by children," Sen. Dole wrote in a June 27 letter to former Surgeon Gen. C. Everett Koop.

Not only is it likely President Clinton will use the Democratic National Convention Aug. 26-29 to attack Sen. Dole on tobacco and its advertising, there's a very good chance his campaign advertising will blast away on the subject, too. That would create the unusual spectacle of political commentators analyzing political advertising blasting product advertising.

BREAKING FROM TRADITION

It hasn't always been this way. While political advertising has been controversial of late, advertising itself hasn't been much of an issue in presidential campaigns. But 1996 isn't exactly a traditional year.

"If the economy was bad, you can be sure what the campaign would be about," Mr. Hess said. "If Americans are getting killed in Bosnia, you can be sure. But if you have big issues like crime, when everybody is talking about how not to spend money, you might as well talk about something that doesn't cost money."

Pointing to controversial ads or advertising catch phrases in speeches is tempting to politicians because it calls to mind imagery that offers a quick hook to gain voters' attention, say marketers.

"The whole family-values issues and the emphasis on the protection of children in our society makes all of these issues on the surface appear beneficial and logical to society," said Hal Shoup, exec VP of the American Association of Advertising Agencies. "It doesn't take an opportunistic politician very long to figure that out."

TOBACCO ISSUE HEATS UP

Family values might have put marketing and the media on the political agenda anyway this year, but recent events have certainly raised the industry's visibility.

First, timing has conspired to keep tobacco advertising alive as an issue throughout the campaign; a court challenge of FDA's authority to regulate tobacco is unlikely to get decided before the election. Further, Congress itself is unlikely to act soon.

Finally, the Clinton administration already has rejected-at least for the moment-a settlement of the FDA/tobacco issue proposed by Philip Morris Cos. to accept some federal restrictions providing the FDA doesn't regulate ads.

"It's just not enough. It's very short of a serious offer," Health & Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala told Advertising Age.

So the only expected action is issuance of regulations-and that could come on the anniversary of the FDA's original proposal, which just happens to be a few days before the Aug. 12 start of the Republican National Convention.

LIQUOR ADS BROADEN DEBATE

The debate over liquor advertising on TV, kicked off by House of Seagram's decision to advertise on a Texas TV station, has added fuel to the fire, particularly for the Clinton campaign.

Sen. Dole earlier told the media: "We know [smoking's] not good for kids, but a lot of other things aren't good. Drinking's not good. Some would say milk's not good."

"There is a big difference on this issue," said Ann Lewis, deputy campaign manager for the Clinton/Gore '96 campaign. "It speaks to the difference in the ways you strengthen a family. Once you get past all the rhetoric, Dole is not willing to support government regulation. The political science of Bob Dole and Republican Party involvement with tobacco interests will not go away, and we are going to have a running discussion."

A MISUNDERSTANDING?

Republicans say too much is being made of that quote and of the tobacco issue.

"He was making a simple observation that the argument can be made that anything is bad for you," said Christina Martin, deputy press secretary for the Dole for President Committee.

"What one needs to keep in mind is that both men agree that teens should not get tobacco products. Bob Dole is willing to address this the first day he comes into office; Clinton has waited 31/2 years. Bob Dole's answer is through education and Clinton's is through regulation and higher taxes," she said.

She also noted that Democrats as well as Republicans have received campaign contributions from the tobacco industry.

Still, Ms. Lewis said the quote points up differences between the two candidates that the Clinton campaign hopes to exploit.

"The record of contributions, the alliance with the tobacco industry and the maladroit way in which Mr. Dole handled it with a bizarre comparison to milk .... I don't know anyone who can't tell the difference between tobacco and milk."

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