The Department of Justice Ordered Big Tobacco to Run These (Bland) Anti-Smoking Ads

Seems Like Big Tobacco Didn't Try Very Hard to Be Creative

By E.J. Schultz. Published on Nov 21, 2017

Editor's Pick

Get ready for the most bland anti-smoking campaign you will ever see. Starting next week, tobacco companies will start spending money on TV ads again--not to sell cigarettes, but to warn against them. The ads, which are the product of years of legal wrangling, are as basic as it gets. The spots simply show black text against a white background, along with a voiceover, warning against the adverse health effects of smoking and the addictive power of nicotine.

The campaign is the culmination of a 18-year legal battle in which the federal government sought to recover billions of dollars in health care related to tobacco-caused illnesses. After lengthy litigation, the court-mandated remedy are anti-smoking ads that will begin running in newspapers on Sunday and on TV beginning Monday where they will run on major networks for a year.

While the media buy is substantial, the creative deficiencies of the spots are drawing criticism from a leading anti-smoking group. "The fact that the tobacco industry fought for 11 years to get to where to these ads have gotten to I think should tell you a lot," says Robin Koval, CEO of Truth Initiative, the anti-tobacco advocacy group. "They fought very hard to make these ads as invisible and unwatchable as they possibly can be." She also said the media placements do not align with the viewing habits of young people. "There are not a lot of young people watching ABC, CBS and NBC primetime anymore or reading a daily newspaper."

Read more about how these ads came to be here.

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Nov 21, 2017
R.J. Reynolds
Philip Morris

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