The biggest antismoking campaign ever is under
way with teens helping shape its edgy messages and tobacco
companies picking up the tab. But Philip Morris, the biggest
cigarette maker, is fuming over what it has seen so far.
The ads, which are part of a $1.5 billion five-year campaign,
portray tobacco as a killer and question the truthfulness of
"We are very disappointed with the campaign," said Philip
Morris spokesman Brendan McCormick, adding the maker of Marlboros
was examining "all of our options."
The first two commercials in the campaign began running earlier
this week and a Web site is in operation.
In one ad, two young people enter a tobacco company office
building where they plan to deliver a lie detector to marketing
executives to help them "tell the truth" about tobacco's
addictiveness. They never get past the security guard and are
The commercial was shot in Philip Morris' lobby in New York. But
the company is never identified in the ad.
In another ad that parodies a soft drink commercial, three young
people take a bungee jump off a bridge to retrieve cans of
fictional Splode soda.
The first two jumpers each grab a can and take a drink as they
are yanked back up to the bridge. But the third jumper's soda can
explodes when he opens it and he vanishes in a burst of flame as
his companions recoil.
These words then appear on the screen: "Only one product
actually kills a third of the people who use it. Tobacco."
Both ads end with the campaign's logo "Truth."
The Web site associated with the campaign, www.thetruth.com,
lists the major tobacco companies and contrasts the industry's past
statements about the health effects of smoking with what the site
operators say the industry knew.
The tobacco companies are paying for the campaign as part of
their $200 billion-plus settlement in 1998 of state claims for
defraying the costs of treating sick smokers.
As part of the pact that removed a huge legal threat to the
industry, the companies are paying $1.5 billion over five years to
a fund "for public education and advertising regarding the
addictiveness, health effects and social costs related to the use
of tobacco products." The American Legacy Foundation was set up to
run the program.
Cheryl Healton, chief executive of the foundation, said $185
million will be spent through June on advertising, the Internet
site, community activities and other programs designed to
discourage youngsters ages 12 to 17 from starting smoking.
"It is the largest countermarketing campaign in public health
in this country," she said, adding that it is bigger than the
federal government's massive antidrug effort. Officials there said
they spent $155 million on antidrug advertising and communications
It also outpaces the donated commercial time and ad space for
the largest public service campaigns on crime prevention ($128
million in 1998) and drunken driving ($111 million), according to
the Advertising Council.
Healton said the antismoking campaign was developed by nine
advertising, PR and research agencies led by Arnold Communications
of Boston. None handle tobacco accounts.
One hundred teens from across the country were brought in last
fall to suggest approaches for the campaign and Healton said the
teens are consulted regularly about how to proceed. She said the
foundation felt teens know best what messages will be most
effective with their peers.
"One of the biggest problems when grownups take over the ads is
that they can have the opposite effect," she said.
But Philip Morris is unhappy with the campaign, citing the "Lie
Detector" ad and the content of the Internet site.
McCormick said the settlement agreement prohibits using the
education fund money for personal attacks on anyindividual or
"We think their campaign is inconsistent with the purpose of
the American Legacy Foundation, which is to educate the public on
tobacco-related health issues," he said.
But Bill Furmanski, spokesman for the foundation, said the
admakers had "gone out of their way not to identify any individual
or specific company" in the ads.
McCormick declined to say what options the company feels it has
in the matter.
The Legacy Foundation hopes to run the ads on as many as 16
broadcast and cable networks. Healton said the broadcast networks
CBS and ABC have not yet cleared them, but said she was confident
of eventually getting approval.