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Campaigns For and Against Cigarettes Share a Single Space

It is not every day that ads praising and attacking cigarette smoking are posted opposite each other in the same room, but that unusual juxtaposition is the basis of a current exhibit that is intended to offer a new perspective on tobacco marketing.

The exhibit, "Up in Smoke: A Politically Incorrect History of Cigarette Advertising," opens the fall season of the One Club for Art and Copy in New York, a nonprofit group that sponsors the creative competition known as the One Show. The goal is to demonstrate "how advertising can manipulate the public," said Ann Cooper, curator of the exhibit, "both for and against a cause."

More than 100 cigarette ads and antismoking pitches, from the 1880's to the present, cover the walls of the club's office on East 21st Street. There is also a reel of about 20 television commercials - half for cigarettes, from the days when such spots were permitted, and half devoted to antismoking messages.

"It's about the power of persuasive advertising," said Mary Warlick, executive director of the club.

On one side of the room are the cigarette ads, for brands that are defunct (Duke), contemporary (Marlboro) and being reintroduced (Lucky Strike). Ms. Cooper clustered some of the more recent pitches according to themes, like relaxation, celebrities and women.

On the opposite side are the ads meant to encourage people to stop smoking, from organizations like the American Legacy Foundation, the California Department of Health Services and the Arizona Tobacco Education and Prevention Program.

The earliest antismoking ad in the exhibit, from the American Cancer Society, is at least 30 years old. The print ad shows a pregnant woman smoking; the headline reads, "Why start a life under a cloud?"

Posted next to the ads are comments that try to place the campaigns in a historical perspective, which include mentions of legal action against tobacco companies.

The idea for the exhibit, Ms. Warlick said, came from a discussion among members of the club's board, who noticed that "a striking number" of public service campaigns discouraging smoking were winning awards in the annual One Shows. They said that was particularly noteworthy, she recalled, because of the small amounts spent on the "anti" side compared with the huge sums spent by the tobacco marketers.

Most of the ads featured in the exhibit came from Duke University in Durham, N.C., private collections and the club's archives. There were problems in trying to get ads from the agencies that created them or their tobacco clients, Ms. Cooper said, except for a handful of shops in Britain.

Some agencies offered cash donations but declined to send ads, Ms. Cooper said. In some instances, she added, agencies and tobacco marketers said they did not want the ads to be displayed in the same gallery as antismoking ads.

Mark Smith, a spokesman for the Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation in Louisville, Ky., a unit of British American Tobacco that sells brands like Capri, Kool and Lucky Strike, said, "It's not unusual that we would not participate." He said he did not think "anybody here was really aware" of the requests for ads.

Cheri Carpenter, a spokeswoman for the longtime Marlboro agency, Leo Burnett USA in Chicago, said the Marlboro brand team at Burnett "had questions they wanted clarified with the One Club." She said that "the deadline came and went" without the questions being answered. Burnett is part of Leo Burnett Worldwide, a unit of the Bcom3 Group.

Even without being able to receive work directly from the agencies or cigarette companies, the club was able to assemble an exhibit that shows remarkable ads on both sides of the tobacco issue.

"The original idea was to just show how the view of cigarettes has changed in our culture," Ms. Cooper said, "and how it has sort of created advertising both for and against."

Two ads symbolize that striking opposition. A Marlboro ad by Burnett from 1958 depicts a rugged-looking cowboy, complete with a tattooed hand and a Western hat, and carries the theme: "Where there's a man . . . there's a Marlboro."

Across the room is a 1997 ad by Asher & Partners in Los Angeles, now Asher/Gal & Partners, for the California health department. That ad, deliberately imitating the look of the Marlboro cowboy campaign, shows two cowboys on horseback. In the headline, ones says to the other: "Bob, I've got emphysema."

The exhibit will be open through Nov. 30 at 32 East 21st Street, between Park Avenue and Broadway; the hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday except Thanksgiving Day and the day after. The club hopes to send the exhibit traveling across the country, Ms. Warlick said.


Allison Fass, The New York Times. November 22, 2000

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