Only Big Three To Get Cigarette Company Remedial Ads

Cigarette company ads are coming back to TV—sort of.

Only CBS, ABC and NBC will be part of a mandatory, year-long, prime time ad buy settlement with major tobacco companies over their marketing of cigarettes.

That is according to a final order outlining how those "remedial" ads are to be formatted and carried.

As part of the 2006 settlement with Big Tobacco over the known health risks from smoking that were omitted from their marketing campaigns for decades, the companies involved in the settlement—Altria, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, Lorillard Tobacco Company, and Philip Morris USA—agreed to place "remedial" advertisements in various media, including those Big Three TV nets and online ads.

The form and placement of those have now been agreed upon, and will include the statement that "secondhand smoke kills over 38,000 Americans per year.”

Each of the four tobacco companies will have to buy ads on one of the Big Three networks (Fox was not included in the mandatory TV placements) five times per week between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., which means another 20 spots per week coming their way in prime time.

No word on why neither Fox nor national cable networks were not included as options, though it could be that those were the networks that carried the original tobacco ads since Fox was not around and cable nets were not a force when the ads went off the air in 1971.

No minority-targeted media are part of the TV buy either, which did not sit well with the Minority Media & Telecommunications Council. "It's surprising that DOJ forgot to include minority owned media in this major advertising buy attendant to the tobacco litigation," said MMTC President David Honig. "DOJ should ask the judge to revise the order to correct this extraordinary omission."

The omission did not sit well with the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters.  “NABOB is very disappointed that the U.S. Department of Justice failed to include Black owned media in the advertising campaign established in the recent settlement with the tobacco industry, said NABOB Executive director James Winston.  "The health of the African American community has suffered disproportionately from the advertising campaigns of the tobacco companies, and Black owned media has been demonstrated to be the best way to engage the African American community.  Yet, now that the tobacco companies are being required to educate the public about the harm that tobacco products have caused, the companies and the DOJ have no plan to direct any educational advertising to our communities.” 

But Winston is doing more that just criticizing the move. "NABOB will contact the DOJ and ask it to direct the companies to amend the planned advertising campaign to include radio, newspaper and television advertising using Black owned media to reach the African American community," he told B&C.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.