Big Tobacco to spend millions on self-critical ads as part of legal settlement
By Jennifer Maloney
Makers of Marlboro, Camel to buy prime-time TV spots, newspaper ads with 'corrective' messages
Broadcast television networks and metro newspapers are about to get a boost from an unexpected but familiar source: Big Tobacco.
It's an old media buy to resolve an old fight. Starting as soon as next month, Altria Group Inc.(MO) and British American Tobacco PLC(BATS.LN) will begin running court-mandated ads to put to rest a lawsuit brought nearly two decades ago by the U.S. Department of Justice over misleading statements the industry had made about cigarettes and their health effects.
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The television spots, between 30 and 45 seconds long, will run in prime time five days a week for 52 weeks, and will appear mostly on ABC, CBS or NBC, Altria said. They won't have the graphic images of a typical antismoking public service announcement. Instead, these ads will be reminiscent of the disclosure statement at the end of a pharmaceutical ad, displaying court-mandated text in black on a white screen with a voice narration.
"Altria, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, Lorillard, and Philip Morris USA intentionally designed cigarettes to make them more addictive," one ad will say. Another reads: "More people die every year from smoking than from murder, AIDS, suicide, drugs, car crashes, and alcohol, combined."
Although the starkness of the black-and-white text ads could be persuasive because they are so out of the ordinary, ad executives said, it is unclear how effective they will be in an age when fewer young people are watching broadcast TV or reading newspapers.