Question is whether 'Truth' will win out

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The American Legacy Foundation's anti-smoking ads have featured body bags, surreptitious footage of Philip Morris Cos.' office and a parody of tobacco company responsibility efforts.

The next ads from the foundation created by 46 state attorneys general as part of their settlement with cigarette makers, however, could be the most unusual yet-they feature governors' wives.

An ad effort urging pregnant women to quit smoking will launch in September in 20 states, including an ending tag with female governors or the spouses of male governors. After that flight, the ads, without the first lady footage, will run for six weeks.

The shift comes as pressure mounts for the 18-month-old anti-smoking program to succeed before its funding runs out. The six cigarette companies that originally agreed to cough up $1.5 billion over five years are to continue funding beyond that only if they maintain more than 99% of the U.S. market share. It now appears that the payments won't continue after March 2003 because of share growth by independent tobacco companies that were not part of the original pact.

The foundation spends about $116 million annually on marketing, with another $21 million spent on grant programs. Most of the marketing money has been spent on the "Truth" ads-in which teens "expose" tobacco marketers to other teens-handled by Havas Advertising's Arnold Worldwide, Boston, and MDC Communications Corp.-backed Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Miami. The foundation claims its campaign aimed at youth is working, though detailed research to prove it won't be completed until next year. "We have very positive signs from our multi-million dollar evaluation study" now under way, said foundation President Cheryl Healton, who acknowledges one reason for the study is to clearly demonstrate the effect of a campaign. "If all of a sudden we are not going to have money any more, we want to be in a position to explain what the cost will be in terms of lives lost."

Tobacco critics give the foundation high marks, although some privately raise eyebrows over the use of governors' wives in the new executions. Scott Ballin, a consultant for anti-tobacco groups, said the foundation has "gone about as far as they can go. They pushed the envelope."

"They are doing a great job," said Dileep G. Bal, president of the American Cancer Society. John Kirkwood, CEO of the American Lung Association, said he is "fully supportive."

Tobacco makers are more critical. "It could be argued it is difficult for the tobacco industry to get a fair trial in California [where there are many smoker suits against the industry as well as a heavy dose of anti-smoking ads] because of demonizing of the industry," said Mark Smith, director of public relations at Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. "If the Legacy campaign is mirroring [that], then you have a clear example of anti-smoking ads not being used to educate but as a tool for influencing potential jurors, which is a violation of the agreement."

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