Ad Review: The Truth? Latest Anti-Smoking Effort Is a Hot Mess

Using Paparazzi Shots of Smoking Celebrities and Calling Them Idiots Is Cheap

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With great power comes great responsibility. Spider-Man's uncle said that once. And if it's good enough for Spider-Man's uncle, it's good enough for the folks over at the American Legacy Foundation. In the latest iteration of its "Truth" campaign, the group switches gears from getting kids to stop smoking to getting celebrities to stop smoking -- while blaming them for teen smoking and calling them unwitting dupes of Big Tobacco.

The group ran a couple of spots during the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards. The first spot features paparazzi photos of Orlando Bloom, Robert Pattinson, Rihanna, Chris Brown and a host of others, cigarettes hanging from their mouths and the words "UNPAID TOBACCO SPOKESPERSON" stamped over their faces. "They're the new face of Big Tobacco. And they don't even know it," the ad continues.

I'm sure the kids watching all screamed, "Dude, sick burn!" in unison. Or maybe they wondered just who American Legacy was talking to here? The celebrities? Publishers? Photographers? The audience?
Who knows? The premise and execution are, as the kids say, a hot mess.

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In the second ad, American Legacy says the first ad might have "pissed off" the lawyers of the celebrities -- tee-hee, they're so edgy. Then the smoking celebrities are shown again and called unpaid spokespeople again. Then American Legacy claims it's not "against these people." Huge fans, as it turns out! Then the ad repeats the notion that every time a smoking photo gets posted, Big Tobacco gets tons of free marketing. Therefore, don't post smoking selfies, kids.

American Legacy is making no damn sense and they don't even know it. I don't have a lot of sympathy for celebrities, but these people aren't posting or printing photos of themselves smoking. Rather, they're having a private moment enjoying a perfectly legal (if harmful) activity out of sight of their fans. How would the folks at American Legacy like it if someone came along and snapped pics of them picking their noses or something?

American Legacy is trying to talk to teens (I think) about what's really cool or lame.

Know what's lame? Trashing a bunch of celebrities, then saying, "Nah, just kidding, bro. We're good," in the next spot. Such a Bieber move. At least have the courage to stand behind the shade you're throwing. Even if it's incoherent junior-high-level shade.

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