VIEWPOINT: 'OLD JOE' IN THE DOCK; DIOR'S WINNER

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Old joe "must go," we said in this space in January 1992, and last week the Federal Trade Commission finally added its voice to that message. Joe is a legal and ethical headache for the ad business that won't go away; a bargaining chip in Big Tobacco's complex negotiations with its critics; a key reason the Food & Drug Administration continues to fight for control over tobacco ads; and, now, the central character in what might be "advertising's trial of the decade" at the FTC. What next? Court TV coverage?

R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. has stood by Joe all these years, and stands by him now-even if it is willing to trade him away at the bargaining table if the price is right. But Joe is still bad news for the ad business. He crossed an invisible line about what is acceptable in selling a legal-but controversial, dangerous and addictive-product. And he, along with liquor advertisers that want access to TV, have ignited a debate over how "age-restricted" products should be advertised, a debate where the possible outcomes are unpredictable and troublesome.

The Federal Trade Commission case against Joe is hardly airtight. The five FTC members were split 3-2 over whether the evidence even justified bringing the complaint, let alone finding RJR guilty once all the research and other evidence is aired and debated before an administrative law judge. And the FTC commissioners know that curbing ads on "unfairness" grounds presents legal and policy issues not present when dishonesty is the issue.

Joe actually would get a fairer trial at the FTC than tobacco ads are getting in city councils across the country. Hanging juries of city council members are banning outdoor ads for all tobacco products without having to seriously weigh the evidence about advertising's role in youth smoking.

But there's nothing to gain in fighting on for Joe. Even if he beats the rap at FTC, he will be "guilty" in the eyes of the public. Joe was a great ad idea, but a terrible choice to represent a product that supposedly is for grown-ups only. It will be a gift to the rest of the ad business if RJR calls off the lawyers and brings Joe to a well-deserved, and long overdue, end.

Dior's winner

It was to be just another summer pro-motion, something to drive sales during an otherwise sleepy time of year. Instead, Christian Dior Perfumes struck gold with Mascara Flash. By giving an old product (mascara) a new use (makeup for the hair), this marketer simultaneously created both a new product segment (in a category where few thought anything was left to invent) and lit a torch to Dior's sales.

A global product based on a simple idea, Mascara Flash, priced at just under $20, has already sold more than 50,000 units, and is expected by the end of the year

to generate unit sales of 380,000 in the U.S. alone. Inside the company, it is said sales are limited only by Dior's ability to produce stock. Indeed, Dior has delayed several other introductions to fulfill orders on this one.

Mascara Flash is a product in demand by men as well as women and it's bringing a younger consumer to Dior's counters. Dior's advertising calls it "A stroke of brilliance for the hair."

Make that a stroke of genius. Everyone talks about product innovation and spends millions trying to achieve it. Dior was just out for some fun but, much to its credit, recognized an original when it saw it. Other marketers, regardless of

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