LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

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Break the rules but not the law

The media awards this year at Cannes honored some truly great work ("Nike `Tag' bags Grand Prix," AA, June 24), but also some horrible examples of "creative" media placement .

In the category "Best Use of Television," a gold lion was awarded to Puerto Rico [McCann-Erickson] for placing a running banner during the film "Titanic." The ad, from Mastercard, referred to stuff Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet were wearing, displaying the retail prices.

Also, a gold winner from South Africa let the lights go off in the studio during a pre-game chat, and the anchors were for a while sitting in the dark as subtitles came on pitching for Osram light bulbs.

Sitting there watching, I couldn't help thinking that this was not creative use of media but rather illegal use of media. To break into non-commercial space on television is no more creative than bribing the news anchor on CNN to tattoo a logo on her forehead, or to sneak into people's homes and glue stickers to their bathroom mirrors. Daring and risky yes, but not legal or ethical.

Creative is when you solve a problem within the legal boundaries and are still able to stand out. As clever as the winners were, they actually proved how disrespectful of consumers our industry can get. To honor work that makes it impossible for consumers to distinguish between editorial objectivity and commercial messages is not beneficial for our clients, their brands or us. Even if you're able to get away with breaking the law (if they have any) in certain countries, you should at least not be rewarded for it at international award shows.

Aris Theophilakis

Regional Creative Director

Bates Asia

Hong Kong

RJR shouldn't blame courts for its woes

The letter from Tommy J. Payne, exec VP-external relations for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. ("Calif. ignored facts in ad case: RJR," AA, July 1) is just the latest product of a company in denial. Rather than blaming "political correctness" for their legal woes, RJR's executives should look in the mirror.

Just two weeks after California Superior Court Judge Ronald Prager properly fined RJR $20 million, ruling that the tobacco giant had "indirectly targeted" youth in its advertising, in violation of the terms of a contract (the Master Settlement Agreement) that it had voluntarily signed, RJR suffered another major courtroom setback. Issuing a scathing ruling and assessing a punitive-damage award of $15 million against RJR in a product-liability case where a smoker contracted peripheral vascular disease (PVD), which necessitated the amputation of both of his legs, U.S. District Judge John W. Lungstrum wrote the following:

"...[T]he evidence gives rise to an inference that fewer people would have begun to smoke but for Reynolds' concealment [of the fact that smoking is addictive and causes PVD]. Fewer Kansas residents, thus, would have suffered the pain of addiction and PVD. The evidence shows that Reynolds knowingly caused this suffering for the sake of profit. The court finds that Reynolds' conduct was extremely reprehensible."

These are the words not of an anti-tobacco activist, but of a Republican-appointed federal judge from Kansas, part of America's heartland. Considering that ruling, combined with the decision by Judge Prager in the advertising case, it is clear that RJR doesn't have a "political correctness" problem in court; it has a reprehensibility problem.

Edward L. Sweda Jr.

Senior Attorney

Tobacco Control Resource Center

Northeastern University School of Law

Boston

Inspired media work answer to PVR fears

Tell the "sky-is-falling" ad guys to relax ("Smart marketers embrace personal video recorders," Viewpoint, AA, June 24). As an advertising medium, TV has been deteriorating rapidly for years. The result [has been] more thoughtful media plans, plans that find consumers in more resourceful ways (sharper consumer targeting, more creative uses of traditional and non-traditional venues and better coordination with the total marketing-communication plan, to name a few). The solution to an elusive consumer is smart, savvy media planning/buying work that finds its audience in a receptive frame of mind. Isn't it ironic that mega-agencies seeking scale (under the phony cover of clout) marginalize the value of inspired, imaginative media work as the current times show an increasing need for it?

Bob Rose

Partner

Director of Marketing & Media

Seiter & Miller Advertising

New York

Anti-drug ad project merits continued $$

Re: "White House nears $150M drug decision" (AA, July 1): I want to add my support for the continuation of [federal] funding. Every independent study over the last 20 years has shown that [the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign] can be extremely successful in reducing the demand for illegal drugs, and reducing actual trial and usage. ... And the only way to get these messages out there is with continued funding, with the majority of funds going to the cost of media buying, not ancillary services.

Jim King

VP-Media Director

Campbell Mithun of California

San Diego

Corrections

* In "IPG eyes stake in Endeavor" (July 15, P. 1), it was stated that Creative Artists Agency had talks with Omnicom Group concerning an alliance. A CAA spokesman said CAA never had talks with Omnicom about an alliance but has done deals for individual TV projects with Omnicom and with other agency groups.

* In "Account Action" (July 8, P. 10), Del Monte Foods Co. was incorrectly identified as the parent company of pet-food brands 9-Lives and Kibbles `n Bits. H.J. Heinz Co. owns the brands, pending completion of their sale to Del Monte.

* In "Divided search party" (July 8, P. 37), the name of Google spokesman David Krane was misspelled.

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