Anti-Smoking Ads Target Minorities, Immigrants

LOS ANGELES One week after a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit that attempted to stop California’s anti-tobacco media campaign, Governor Gray Davis unveiled new anti-smoking TV spots from the California Department of Health Services.

The two 30-second TV spots, created by Ground Zero in Marina del Rey, Calif., continue to focus on the industry’s marketing tactics. Both retain fictional marketing executive Ken Lane, who was first introduced in 2001, as well as the tag, “Do you smell smoke?”

In “Ethnic Targeting,” Lane and his associates sit around a table discussing the untapped potential markets for the company’s cigarettes, including minority neighborhoods. They talk about becoming involved in the community by helping small businesses and donating to local ethnic organizations, noting that while it doesn’t cost a lot to become a friend in these areas, it pays off because they are “rewarded with new smokers.”

“People have heard quite a bit about how tobacco companies are coming into their neighborhoods and sponsoring programs, but they are less aware that they’re coming in with the hope of getting a lifetime of smokers,” said Ground Zero creative partner Court Crandall. “Companies are not naturally altruistic, and a tobacco company is no exception.”

The spot is the CDHS’ “strongest statement yet on the industry’s targeting of ethnic groups,” said client representative Ken August.

In “Foreign,” Lane states that analysts have said tobacco companies have a dwindling market in the U.S. and need to look elsewhere for new smokers. Therefore, he says that his company is looking at “places in the world where they actually have bigger problems than just cigarettes,” like Asia, Eastern Europe and Mexico. He spins a globe, and then puts his finger on a foreign location, Qing Dao. His associate, Lenny, notes that these places offer high growth potential and have fewer regulations. Lenny, who is playing with a Russian Matryoshka nesting doll, opens one up to reveal some cigarettes. He offers one to Lane, who refuses.

“This is the state’s first ad that looks at efforts by the tobacco industry to promote smoking worldwide,” said August, noting that immigrants to the state of California are likely to bring tobacco habits with them.

Crandall said the spot “speaks to the tobacco companies’ involvement in exploiting people in foreign countries for their gains.” He added, “It hasn’t been heard that much, and it is pretty compelling.”

The spots are set to break in September. The media budget for this fiscal year, which began in July, is $19 million.

Last week, U.S. District Court judge Lawrence Karlton dismissed a lawsuit filed by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Lorillard Tobacco Co., which sought to halt the anti-tobacco campaign.

“This is part of our ongoing effort to tell the truth about tobacco and the tobacco industry,” said August. “Our advertising campaign did not hesitate for one moment when we were presented with a lawsuit. We continued our traditional presence with frank and uncompromising information about the harmful effects of tobacco.”