Complaining that the creative unfairly attacks safe products, some networks requested significant changes in the American Legacy Foundation's anti-tobacco ads before airing them.
NBC, ABC and CBS questioned the approach taken by Arnold Communications, Boston, and Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Miami, in the storyboards submitted for approval. The concern could delay the debut of the $150-225 million campaign, called "Truth," initially scheduled for the end of January.
One ad targeted at teens compares acne medicine to tobacco, sources said. In the scenario, the viewer is asked to imagine what it is like to apply a pimple cream that causes facial skin to fall off, leaving the user with burn marks and exposed bone. The message: that is what tobacco does to you.
Products such as cars and sneakers are used in a similar way.
"While we are not uncomfortable with broadcasting anti-smoking messages, the specific creative at this early stage is problematic," said Rick Gitter, NBC's vp of ad standards and program compliance.
ABC officials also declined comment. CBS did not respond to calls at press time.
Fox Networks raised one concern: depicting a teenager smoking for fear it would have the opposite effect: glamorize smoking, a spokesperson said. Fox screened the concepts involving acne cream, sneakers and cars and "did not have a problem."
Chuck Wolfe, Legacy's evp, declined comment on specifics.
Arnold media director John Gaffney said the differences would be overcome. "Our job is to be edgy," he said. "The networks bureau of standards' job is to be conservative. We don't always match."