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franklin county times

Offensive to older adults

By Staff
Jan. 14, 2001
Nothing gets the creative juices flowing faster at an advertising agency than the opportunity to develop a highly visible project and the promise of a huge paycheck. But a Jackson advertising agency working for Attorney General Mike Moore's $20 million anti-tobacco campaign has managed to break the law of unintended consequences:
In trying to persuade teenagers to eschew the use of cigarettes and other tobacco products, it created television commercials that are offending older adults.
Lecherous' smile
With lines such as "You wouldn't want their social life, so why do you want their lungs?" one commercial is set in what appears to be a senior citizens home where a boring game of bingo is in progress. A young black female sits among the older people, one of whom a white male sprays his mouth with breath freshener, moves closer to her and gives her a lecherous smile. It's a little eerie.
While well-intended, this series of commercials is off on the wrong track and if the heat is raised much higher, they'll be off the air  no matter how successful they are at discouraging teens from smoking.
The lucrative ad contract was awarded to Maris West and Baker last year and spots hit the airwaves last October.
Any public service ad campaign which offends such a powerful, active segment of the population older adults vote in larger numbers than any other demographic group will likely be challenged. Or someone will pay a political penalty.
Senior citizens are the unintended target of this campaign and portrayal of them as unhealthy, dull and unattractive people is just plain wrong.
For $20 million, the ad agency can do better.