Review set for historic ad assault on tobacco

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Moving to launch what will be the biggest and most coordinated anti-tobacco campaign in U.S. history, the board of the National Tobacco Control Foundation gave the go-ahead last week to seek agency bids for an estimated $150 million to $225 million in annual marketing spending.

The foundation will award a single contract for anti-tobacco marketing to an agency or agency group to handle advertising, public relations and media buying.

A request for proposals will be posted by month's end and a selection made by fall, said Chuck Wolfe, the former Florida director of tobacco control who is overseeing the day-to-day activities of the board's program.


Mr. Wolfe said a two-year contract with a two-year renewal is a likely possibility, though no final decision has been made. Some of the agency's compensation would be tied to its success in reducing smoking, he said.

Agencies that handle tobacco clients will be barred from bidding.

"It's a conflict," said Mr. Wolfe. "Anybody who promotes tobacco anywhere in the world will be excluded."

No final decision has been made on what would constitute a conflict for agencies that handle non-tobacco products marketed by the parent of a tobacco marketer, he said. Florida generally barred agencies that handled any product of a tobacco company, but limited the restriction. Other arms of a holding company could bid.

Mr. Wolfe said he has yet to write the proposal request, but agencies in the initial stage of the review would likely be asked to show credentials demonstrating a success in swaying the opinions of young people, an ability to reach a variety of minorities and to present recommendations for allocating the money between PR, advertising and concepts. No creative would necessarily be required in initial presentations.


Mr. Wolfe said because of the size of the account he would like to see the lead agency be a certain minimum size, but the consortium could include smaller agencies.

The foundation, technically the Master Settlement Agreement National Foundation, was formed as a result of last year's settlement between state attorneys general and tobacco companies. The current board is headed by Washington state Attorney General Christine Gregoire.

The foundation gets $250 million this year and, beginning next year, $300 million annually to conduct an anti-tobacco educational campaign.

Mr. Wolfe said no decision has been made on how much of the annual total will go to marketing programs or what share would be spent on national marketing.

The foundation hopes to start advertising late this year, and may consider using existing ads from states already conducting anti-smoking campaigns if its own marketing isn't ready, Mr. Wolfe said.

Copyright June 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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