Wednesday, August 22, 2007

American Legacy Foundation Condemns Magazines for Running Camel No. 9 Ads, But Fails to Put Money Where Its Mouth Is

The American Legacy Foundation is spearheading a campaign which condemns magazines for running Camel No. 9 cigarette advertisements and calls for those magazines to refuse to publish such advertising. Legacy, along with a number of other medical and health groups, claims that the advertising is directly targeted to teenage girls and young women.

According to an American Legacy Foundation press release: "More than 45 groups dedicated to protecting and improving women’s health are calling for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company to remove its Camel No. 9 cigarettes from stores across the nation. With its stylish packaging and advertising featuring black, bright pink and teal colors, a female-friendly design motif and a name evocative of women’s fashion icons, Camel No. 9 is directly targeted to teenage girls and young women. The impact of Camel No. 9 advertising and packaging on young women is a serious public health threat. In the wake of the Camel No. 9 launch, more than 40 members of Congress called on women’s magazines to refuse advertising for this product, because the members see such ads as direct attempts to attract girls and young women to smoking. On August 1, 2007, members of Congress sent a follow-up letter to leading women’s publications, urging them to consider to “voluntarily adopt an institutional policy of rejecting cigarette advertising aimed at young people” and asking for a response by August 15."

In a letter sent by the American Legacy Foundation to R.J. Reynolds, the Foundation complains that: "ads for the brand are being run in fashion magazines, like Vogue and Cosmopolitan, that have millions of young female readers."

The Rest of the Story

The rest of the story is that while the American Legacy Foundation's mouth is busy complaining about how Vogue and Cosmopolitan are carrying these malicious advertisements which are directly targeting girls, the Foundation has done something very different with its financial interests: maintained a corporate partnership with these very magazines.

According to its website, the American Legacy Foundation has honored Vogue and Cosmopolitan with a corporate partnership: Legacy listed Conde Nast Publications - the publisher of Vogue - and the Hearst Corporation - publisher of Cosmopolitan - as being its corporate partners.

According to a Legacy report, the Foundation reaped a significant financial benefit from these corporate partnerships: substantial advertising discounts in these companies' magazines.

So the truth of the matter is that the American Legacy Foundation is (or at least was - the Foundation is now hiding the identity of its corporate partners) a corporate partner of the very companies which are carrying these supposedly despicable Camel No. 9 advertisements to our nation's girls.

If Legacy were sincerely interested in ending the advertising of Camel No. 9 cigarettes, I should think that the first thing it would do is to end its corporate partnership with Hearst and
Conde Nast (and do so in a very vocal manner), or at very least, to issue an ultimatum to these companies that they either halt the advertising of Camel No. 9 cigarettes or Legacy will end its partnership and stop honoring these companies as public health contributors.

While Legacy is easily able to write a stinging letter demanding that magazines cease their advertising of Camel No. 9, it does not appear to be so willing to risk its financial benefits by threatening or ending its corporate partnership with the very same magazines.

Interestingly, while Legacy mentions that Vogue and Cosmopolitan are carrying the Camel No. 9 ads, it is careful not to mention the names of the companies that publish these magazines. Apparently, this is one benefit of a corporate partnership with Legacy: protection from public criticism.

The point of this post is not, by the way, to comment on the Camel No. 9 product or its advertising. What I am addressing here is what I see as the lack of integrity of a major national anti-smoking group.

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