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Tobacco marketers may find their freedom of commercial speech shackled if President Clinton limits cigarette advertising, but it will be the print and outdoor media that will pay the price, in dollars and cents, to keep children from smoking.

But so far, publishers and outdoor executives aren't panicking.

Tobacco advertisers hiked their spending by 35% last year, reaching $443 million, says Competitive Media Reporting. Magazines got $276 million, or about 62%, of that total; outdoor, $121 million (27%); newspapers, $21 million (5%); Sunday magazines, $20 million (4.5%); and national newspapers, $4 million (1%). Through May 1995, spending totaled $144.5 million.

Data from the Publisher's Information Bureau show People had the most tobacco ad pages of any magazine last year with 227 and ad revenue of $30 million. Time Inc. siblings Sports Illustrated ranked second in ad pages with 192 but was tied in ad dollars, and Entertainment Weekly was third with 162 pages and $9 million.

Roberta Garfinkle, senior VP-director of print media at McCann-Erickson Worldwide, New York, believes that mainstream entertainment titles like People, Us, Entertainment Weekly and Premiere could suffer because of a high percentage of younger readers.

But media executives are taking comfort in two things: the restrictions are still a matter of "if," not "when," and the media aren't as tobacco dependent as they once were.

With some periodic exceptions such as the recent rise of tobacco spending in out-of-home media, over the last 15 years tobacco ad revenue have fallen steadily in magazines, newspapers and outdoor.

The Magazine Publishers of America says tobacco was the No. 1 ad category for magazines in 1975, comprising 10.7% of ad dollars. By 1995, that figure was down to 3%, and Jim Guthrie, exec VP-marketing development, sees that holding steady through the end of the year.

"In 1994, tobacco ads comprised less than 1% of our revenues. Ten years ago, that number was 12% to 14%," said Tom Evans, publisher of U.S. News & World Report. "We wouldn't want to lose any revenues, but it would not affect us that much."

Said John Adams, senior VP-associate media director at Bates USA, New York: "The industry pretty much policed itself on tobacco advertising. There's always been concern about the percentage of readership going to young people. So, I don't anticipate any significant change in terms of planning magazine buys."

Among outdoor companies, the feeling is that if the restrictions are levied, "the impact on out-of-home media is going to be a hell of a lot less than it would have been even a few years ago," said Pete Riordan, VP-manager of out-of-home and non-traditional media at BBDO Worldwide. "Tobacco's share of market has halved in the past few years. And the industry is having a hell of a good year from other categories."

He said many companies set self-imposed limits of no more than 25% of their revenues from the category, but that overall, by the mid-1980s, nearly a third of all outdoor dollars came from tobacco.

Today, that number stands at 13%. Even though it's still a significant share, Mr. Riordan said increased demand from other categories-especially automotive-and high profitability among the outdoor companies will enable them to weather further losses from tobacco.

"Our tobacco advertisements have been falling off since the early '80s, when it made up about 30% to 50% of our revenues. Today, it is only about 10% to 15%," said Chris Carr, VP-eastern region for Gannett Outdoor. "We've been working hard to fill that void with such industries as fashion, soft drinks and entertainment companies.

"There is enough business out there to take the place of tobacco if these regulations should ever go through."

Jodi Yegelwel, senior VP-director of marketing for Transportation Displays Inc., said her company's ad dollars from tobacco products have decreased from 24% of revenues in 1991 to just under 4% in year-to-date 1995. TDI has been preparing for the downturn in tobacco dollars by looking elsewhere.

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