CNBC asks whether an anti-smoking ad goes too far. Everything about contemporary anti-smoking goes too far.
On Thursday April 2, 2009 CNBC’s Today Show broadcast a segment, "Do Anti-Smoking Ads Go Too Far?". (Video is at link bottom this page.) CNBC reports that a new ad campaign is expected to save 20,000 lives. The segment airs portions of a New York City anti-smoking advertisement that exploits children crying. The advertisement has become quite controversial. At issue is what methods were employed to bring a child to the point of crying for use in the advertisement. Dr. Thomas Frieden, New York City Health Commissioner, stated, “If we were saying something that is not accurate that would be going too far.” Apparently, terrifying children and making kids cry is not going too far.
Beyond the obvious fact that the estimated 20,000 lives to be saved is yet another example of anti-tobacco’s skill at cooking the epidemiology books, documented history about anti-tobacco advertising in the state of Washington tells us that similar ads intentionally lied to kids and the public. Moreover, the previous willful misrepresentations are directly on point with the content of CNBC’s April 2, 2009 segment, which also featured a person smoking through a hole in his neck because nicotine was allegedly so addictive. That misrepresentation is addressed below, with an excerpt from a February 2004 commentary published by FORCES. Consequently, we begin discussion of New York City’s newest and notably filthy anti-smoking advertisement with the observation that, by his own definition, Dr. Frieden’s campaign advertisement clearly goes too far.
What is striking about the CNBC broadcast segment is the jovial manner in which abusing children in the name of public health was cavalierly dismissed. In the segment, a young boy about four years old was crying and obviously terrified while lost in a train station or airport. The anti-tobacco message was those who smoke leave their children behind when they die. Ergo, it follows, one must immediately call the state QuitLine and sign up to quit smoking.
However, once one calls the QuitLine they are immediately referred to Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) products such as NicoDerm CQ and Nicorette. Some years ago, anti-tobacco activists expressed their outrage about tobacco companies going after the kids to peddle their highly-addictive nicotine wares. Today, we observe anti-tobacco taking that concept one step further by featuring kids in televisions commercials that ultimately hawk nicotine products. Along the way, it appears that terrifying a child until he cries to craft “compelling” ad copy is quit acceptable behavior. Many would see that as being more abusive to children than Philip Morris’ Marlboro Man lighting up a smoke and handing it to his four-year-old grandson in a 1960s television pitch.
CNBC’s Donnie Deutsch, CEO of the Deutsch advertising agency, was the Spinner-in-Chief employed in the network’s damage control effort for the anti-smoking comericals. Mr. Deutsch made the following comments about the advertising content during the April 2, 2009 CNBC segment:
After watching the anti-tobacco advertisement Mr. Deutsch claps and says, “Bravo!”
As to the ad content of a terrified and crying child, Mr. Deutsch says, “Good, bad, either word is fine because it’s compelling.”
Concerning making a child cry to create compelling add content, Mr. Deutsch opined, “Maybe sometimes they make a kid cry. But if it saves 20,000 lives for 5 seconds of cry, I’ll take that.”
Mr. Deutsch later repeated his support for the child crying by saying “If a kid cries for 10 seconds and we save 20,000 lives, I’m all in.”
Regarding the approach to that form of advertising, Mr. Deutsch said, “This is a great tactic.”
Mr. Deutsch was featured in a December 8, 2004 New York Times article, "Can Deutsch Be a TV Star and Head of an Agency?" [stored], by Stuart Elliott. That article said, in part:
One of the hottest agencies in advertising, almost constantly in the spotlight, is under renewed scrutiny as two of its biggest accounts are placed in review and its charismatic leader prepares for even more time in the public eye. The agency is Deutsch in New York, which has compiled a track record in the last decade that ranks it among Madison Avenue’s most successful firms. Under the direction of Donny Deutsch, its outspoken chairman and chief executive, the agency has produced standout, talked-about campaigns for brands like DirecTV, Tommy Hilfiger, Ikea, Mitsubishi and Snapple. Those ads helped Deutsch leap into the top ranks of large, creatively focused agencies, alongside the likes of Fallon Worldwide; Goodby, Silverstein & Partners; and Wieden & Kennedy. Deutsch’s billings, estimated at $1.5 billion when it was acquired in 2000 by the Interpublic Group of Companies, are now estimated at more than twice that amount.
One wonders if corporations such as DirecTV, Ikea, Mitsubishi, and Snapple share the views expressed by Mr. Deutsch in the above quotes. Perhaps we will next observe NBC broadcasting prime time advertisements that feature terrified children who cry to peddle allegedly healthy fruit drinks and Ikea using the same unseemly tactic to sell furniture for children.
Wikipedia presents information concerning Donnie Deutsch [stored], which includes in its information the following:
Deutsch, who is renovating a $21 million townhouse at 6 East 78th Street that he purchased in 2006, also bought a 3.3-acre estate on East Hampton’s Further Lane for $29 million.
Most who have researched tobacco control are quite familiar with the $500 million-plus anti-tobacco grants awarded since 1992 by one of the largest institutional shareholders of NicoDerm CQ manufacturer, Johnson & Johnson, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The above Today Show segment mentioned that calls to smoking QuitLines have quadrupled since new cigarette taxes became effective. State QuitLines direct persons who smoke to Nicotine Replacement Therpay (NRT) such as NicoDerm CQ patches and Nicorette Gum, both of which Johnson & Johnson have a mercantile interest in. In addition, consumers watch television advertisements for NicoDerm CQ and Nicorette broadcast by NBC. So the New York City health department’s latest anti-tobacco advertising under the leadership of Dr. Thomas Frieden becomes little more than abusing kids to peddle nicotine products and keep the tax revenues plus private foundation grants flowing. It also appears that Donnie Deutch is “all in” with advertising that abuses kids, so long as the advertising dollars continue to flow through his agency. Apparently, that’s a great way to acquire a $21 million townhouse and a $29 million summer estate.
The problem with the above is that all the public health huffing and puffing about kids is, for the most part based on blatant lies by anti-tobacco. FORCES reported about issues that directly relate to this subject more than five years ago. From "Smoking Bans: The Ultimate Special-Interest Insiders’ Game", by Norman E. Kjono, published by FORCES February 10, 2004:
Why was Doc Koop a member of the same professional nicotine research society with Joe Camel’s boss, R.J. Reynolds, during the 1990s? One answer to that question may found in my commentary "Mercantile You Addiction", published at Forces.org August 2001. That commentary discusses billboards that were strategically posted near Kirkland, Washington schools in 2001 and communicated the message to kids that nicotine is addicting. The billboards featured "Debi," who smoked through a hole in her neck and asked a question: "Is Nicotine Addictive?" Kids were told by that billboard "Just Ask Debi," continuing to smoke despite surgery for throat cancer. Problem is that, according to what The Seattle Times reported in its May 16, 2001 article "Smoking Stole My Voice . . . My Dreams" [stored], Debi quit smoking five years after she was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1992 (1997), but The Times says in its August 16, 2001 editorial "Not Enough Tobacco Money For Prevention" [stored] three months later that Debi is a lifelong smoker! How can a person who quit smoking four years before billboards that presented her smoking through a hole in her neck in 2001 possibly be a lifelong smoker, as represented by The Times in its August 16, 2001 editorial plea for more tobacco control funding? Why would The Times publish representations about Debi and smoking in August 2001 that are revealed to be blatantly false by their own previous reporting in May of the same year? Perhaps an answer to that question can be found by counting the pharmaceutical nicotine and other drug company advertisements in The Times’ and The Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s combined Sunday edition. But isn’t using false information that portrays a nonsmoker to be a hopeless tobacco addict, to sell new beliefs in addiction to nicotine from the first puff on billboards near schools that expressly target kids, the ultimate in deceiving kids and a blatant conflict-of-interest? We can thank Dr. Koop for that conflict.
It is worth noting that FORCES is still operating and providing useful information to the public. In contrast, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer published its last edition in March 2009. There’s a message in that for honest citizens and caring parents: those who abuse children by lying to them and exploiting youth in public advertising ultimately experience what they justly and richly deserve, career and economic oblivion.
Then again, it is also worth noting that child abusers often wind up in jail. A good place to start might be opening a prosecution file on New York City’s commissioner of public health, Dr. Thomas Frieden. Second in line should be the parents who allow their children to be featured in such advertisements.
As to CNBC, the situation is transparent: mainstream media broadcasts television commercials that abuse kids, to keep the NicoDerm and Nicorette advertising revenues flowing into the corporate till.
There you have it in a nutshell. Anti-tobacco is, always has been, and evermore shall be about raking in the bucks. If a four-year-old child is abused in the process well, you know, that’s just a minor “side bar issue.”