Though the magazine industry was shocked by Philip Morris USA's decision to pull more than $100 million annually in ads from 48 titles with significant youth readership, it's now possible the impact on magazines could be minimized.
Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson said his fellow state officials would be "hard pressed to object" to Philip Morris putting its pulled cigarette ads back into the 48 magazines -- if those titles produce editions specifically for those 18 and over.
"I don't know what our point of objection would be if they were successful in assuring us [that the ads were running in magazines with] under 15% readership by those under 18, and under 2 million under-18 readers," said Mr. Edmondson, who heads the National Association of Attorneys General committee that oversees enforcement of the settlement agreement tobacco companies signed over state tobacco suits.
PHILIP MORRIS ACTS ALONE
On June 5, Philip Morris alone among major tobacco companies acceded to state attorneys general demands that it voluntarily limit its tobacco ads to the 15%/2 million limit the Food & Drug Administration had proposed.
"It's encouraging," said Bruce Brandfon, Newsweek's ad director, who added his title could comply by dropping cigarette ads from the 200,000 copies it distributes to high schools. Mr. Brandfon would not comment on the discussions Newsweek has had with Philip Morris about such an arrangement.
A spokesman at a magazine that will see a substantial revenue hit from the Philip Morris pullout allowed "it's an interesting development," but that substantial logistical problems made an over-18 edition "not close" to becoming a reality.
An executive at People, which took in $17.2 million in Philip Morris cigarette ads last year, sounded more eager. Through a spokeswoman, President Nora McAniff said, "If Philip Morris were free to place ads in adult editions, we would be happy to help them."
Last week Philip Morris left open the option of advertising in over-18 editions.
"Our top priority is a better measurement tool for readership that can serve as the standard for the industry," said Brendan McCormick, manager of media affairs. "If magazines can meet our policy with new information acceptable to us, we will look at it."
While Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. has so far been unwilling to pull ads, it said it is willing to adopt similar restrictions once good data are available. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. has refused to pull ads, but Mr. Edmondson said a point of progress in a June 16 meeting between tobacco company executives and attorneys general was that tobacco marketers are now willing to drop ads based solely on the percentage of under-18 readers if there can be agreement on readership research. Tobacco marketers had wanted to base the policy on the number of underage subscribers, as opposed to readership.
"One encouraging thing was there was general acceptance that the standard would be in terms of [teen] readership" percentage, not sheer numbers of subscribers, said Mr. Edmondson, adding there are still differences on the exact numbers to use.
Parade Publisher Walter Anderson, whose publication took in $4.6 million in Philip Morris cigarette ads last year, was stoic in the face of these developments. Through a spokeswoman, he said the ultimate decision "was for Philip Morris to make, and we've had no official notification from them. We'll wait and see."
Copyright June 2000, Crain Communications Inc.