Post-game: CBS moves on, situation back to NORML

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The Super Bowl was like a bad flashback for Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, aka NORML. CBS banned an anti-Bush administration commercial from the game because the spot took a position on a "controversial issue." Meanwhile, the Viacom-owned network defended airing an anti-drug ad in the game with this statement: "CBS is unaware of responsible groups that advocate drug abuse and smoking by minors, so it is hard to understand how these laudable efforts would constitute `controversial issues."'

"Drug-policy reform is one of the most politically controversial issues in the United States," St. Pierre tells Adages. NORML does not advocate drug abuse, but it does advocate drug use, or rather, the legalization of marijuana, and in 2000 it ran outdoor ads featuring New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg that were banned from-that's right-Viacom billboards and kiosks.

"Viacom is, for lack of a better word, fairly conservative," St. Pierre says.

NORML, meanwhile, considers itself a responsible organization. "Willie Nelson is on our board," St. Pierre says. "And so is Robert Altman and Woody Harrelson."

According to St. Pierre, NORML once considered running a national TV spot campaign directed by Altman promoting legalization, and had $3 million ready for a media buy (Fenton Communications in New York is NORML's media shop-it also buys for, but they dropped the project because the organization feared that the ONDCP, a huge ad spender, would pressure broadcasters not to run it.

St. Pierre tells Adages the aborted campaign featured a photo gallery of prominent people like Carl Sagan, Louis Armstrong and philanthropist Peter Lewis with the tagline "Just another marijuana smoker who never amounted to anything. " Armstrong's throaty rendition of "It's a Wonderful World" was to be on the soundtrack.

"Such a happy song, from a happy man," says St. Pierre.

Unfair and off-balance

Al Franken, of all people, came to CBS's defense on the issue. "The ad is against Bush. It's political and that's a gray area," Al tells Adages. "CBS has a legitimate case against using it, but they made the case badly." Al says the ONDCP Super Bowl ad last year that suggested drug abuse promotes terrorism was controversial and "tenuous" and should not have passed muster, either. "If anything, the Taliban helped eradicate heroin poppy fields in Afghanistan," Al said. "It's hardly black and white."

Jack & Jackie

Jackie Kelley, senior VP-advertising at USA Today, plans to stay at the paper, according to a spokesman. Jackie is not to be confused with Jack Kelley, the USA Today foreign correspondent who resigned after admitting he deceived editors who were investigating problems in his reporting. Among other things, Jack allegedly fabricated a source for one story. FYI: Jackie and Jack are married.

To the simple life!

Comedy Central is literally putting Larry Divney out to pasture. The president-CEO of the network, part of Viacom's MTV group, announced his retirement last week after the company hired USA Networks President Doug Herzog to run the channel. Larry, 61, tells Adages that he was planning to bow out at the end of the year, but was asked to take early retirement. "No one has ever retired from MTV before," boasts Larry, who has refused other job offers. "I'm going up to the farm." Larry has a 400-acre spread in New York state. "It's all feed corn for the local dairy farmers." But he won't be a complete hick. "I'll take the train down on Tuesdays, go to Cafe Cello for lunch, go to the spa, then back to Cello for dinner, then down to my loft and back on the train out of town the next day."

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