TOBACCO LINKS LEASH AGENCIES: SHOPS WITH TIES TO MARKETERS MAY BE OUT IN CONTEST FOR $300 MIL PRIZE

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A plum, $300 million-a-year anti-tobacco program may be denied agencies with tobacco business anywhere in the world.

The National Tobacco Control Foundation, created by state attorneys general to run the national anti-tobacco effort, next month will hear a staff recommendation to rule ineligible those agencies. It comes eight months after ad agencies were angered by Sen. John McCain's letter to national drug czar Barry McCaffrey that questioned the government's selection of a tobacco shop for anti-drug media buying.

Also possibly excluded from the running could be any ad agency that has handled a tobacco company in the past two years, and any shop whose subsidiary or parent handles business of a tobacco company.

The recommendation is being drafted by Chuck Wolfe, the former executive director of the Florida Tobacco Control program who has been hired to help run the national foundation.

Mr. Wolfe said last week he has not yet drafted the formal language that he will recommend to the foundation board. But he said it will likely be similar to that used by Florida and other states in bidding their anti-tobacco campaigns.

ELIGIBILITY IN FLORIDA

Florida asked agencies, "Does the agency, firm or organization have any affiliation, contract or other type of relationship with any tobacco company, its affiliate or its subsidiary?" and "Has the agency had any such relationship in the past?" It also told agencies that "None of the entities wishing to participate in the project, nor its parent or any proposed subcontractors may have an affiliation or contractual relationship with any tobacco company, its affiliate, its subsidiaries or its parent."

In September, Sen. McCain (R., Ariz.), who chairs the Senate Commerce Committee, sent to Gen. McCaffrey, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy director, a letter suggesting a similar approach. That drew criticism both from the American Association of Advertising Agencies and Bates USA -- a longtime Philip Morris Cos. shop whose Zenith Media unit was then handling media buying for the anti-drug program.

A Four A's statement called Sen. McCain's proposal "a dangerous precedent."

This time, however, Four A's is less concerned. That suggests the trade association's objection was to Sen. McCain attempting to alter federal contracting law, while it considers the foundation, whose board will include two governors, two attorneys general and two state legislators, as well as representatives of health groups, a private client.

"It is different when you are making federal law," said Hal Shoup, exec VP of Four A's. "The national foundation has a right to establish its own criteria."

Mr. Shoup, however, questioned the restriction.

"I don't think it is fair. What if the agency doesn't have a cigarette account, but the account supervisor and the creative director used to handle tobacco at

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