Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Is There Anything You Wouldn't Work On?

A Fly In My Soup reports that he has been asked to work on a cigarette account. (Last I heard, he accepted).

Would you?

His argument - and incidentally he is a non-smoker - was that if cigarettes are legal, then it should be legal to advertise them.


Anonymous said...

In my first month here, a young account exec resigned saying his conscience was hurting. Working in advertising meant trying to sell things people don't necessarily want to people who might not be able to afford them.
I pointed out that you could easily make a moral argument against working in banking, management consultancy, energy, motor...
Today we're told (again) that our cars are killing the planet. Energy needs are causing wars. Snacks and sugary drinks are making us fat. Take your pick.
Working on a tobacco account is no better or worse than these, depending upon the moral weight you assign to tobacco's effects.

Anonymous said...

In my opinion, there is enormous void between ethical and "legal." And this isn't a question of law it's a question of morality.

I will say that in that regard, I have my limits.

But thankfully they've never really been tested (other than, you know, the usual selling inferior/useless products).

I'm pretty sure my line would be drawn near malicious products like tobacco (think I'd be more comfortable marketing pot).

Most stories that I have heard about people begging off an account has been about working on McD's (and I've heard that story several time in several different markets).

Stanley Johnson said...

When I was working in london a few years back I was seriously tempted by a job offer as Head ofCopy at #%$&%!.

Great job. Great clients. Nice office in the West End. I also loved a lot of the work they were doing.

However one of their biggest pieces of business was a tobacco client.

The work they were doing with the tobacco brands was very clever. Slipping in under the radar, bending the rules etc. My kind of brand to be honest.


They seemed to me to be bending the rules way further that I thought was right. In the end I turned the job down.

Six months later there was a big article in a Sunday paper on how tobacco companies were breaking ethical boundaries and promoting cigarettes to teens and in particular young women.

This confirmed my decision to turn down the job.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn’t have a problem working on cigarette ads. Especially since they’ve introduced those tremendous ‘smoking kills’ warnings (or ‘smoking can be deadly’ in Germany). I love the American ones though: Surgeon General’s warning – cigarette smoke contains carbon monoxide. (uh, ok.) Or: quitting smoking now greatly reduces serious risks to your health. (what about quitting smoking later? Or what was it like before?)
I always thought product placement in movies was much more effective in getting people to start smoking anyway.

Scamp said...

I have only once asked not to work on an account for ethical reasons, which was at DDB London, where they had the British Meat business (I'm a vegetarian).

The CD at the time - Larry Barker - said no problem. Then again it was a small account, and one of 40 at the agency.

I think Stan made the right decision not joining a shop where their major piece of business was a tobacco account - wouldn't be fair on the agency to join if not happy to work on that.

Sadly, although I despise smoking, I probably would work on a tobacco account, because of the freedom of choice argument.

(People can choose whether to smoke or not, animals don't choose to become our dinner...)

Rant over.

For now!

copyranter said...

Worked on Drum roll-you-own tobacco. Had no problem with it. An Ann Coulter book? ehhh...

Anonymous said...

I worked on a tobacco account. But I've never told my ma and pa...

William said...

I think I would be more concerned with advertising low cost flights than I would tobacco.

Anonymous said...

'People can choose whether to smoke or not'

I disagree. Nicotine is highly addictive, and reduces the ability of the consumer to choose not to consume.

I heard an awful thing on NPR this morning. Has anyone noticed the tiny perforated holes on light cigarettes? Apparently they were introduced so that light cigarettes would fool the government testing machines (called the Puffer) into thinking the cigarettes had a lower concentration of nicotine, tar etc. The machine would suck air through the holes, diluting the concentration. When it came to a human smoker, however, the finger/lips would cover the hole, giving a much stronger hit of nicotine. Let's hope this case:


goes the right way.

In the future, we should ban tobacco companies from using any smart, underhand, unconventional, highly effective communications. They should only be allowed to advertise using increasingly ineffective above the line media.

Chris Powell wrote an excellent article in Campaign a few years ago about responsiblity in advertising, concluding that selling crap to kids was OK because they should learn that they live in a world of choice and can't have everything, whereas advertising cigarettes was bad and wrong.

Scamp said...

In the future, we should ban tobacco companies from using any smart, underhand, unconventional, highly effective communications. They should only be allowed to advertise using increasingly ineffective above the line media.

why not go further, and force all tobacco companies to use McCann Erickson or Grey?

Willoughby said...

I'll have you know, Mr Scamp, that my argument was not based on any such premise (although I think I agree with it). I was merely pointing out the hypocracy of the majority of those in our industry who now choose to critise the idea whn many have built their careers off it.

Anonymous said...

I do music searches and negotiate music copyrights on behalf of agencies.

It is very common for famous music writers to say NO to alcoholic brands. Most writers with a history of alcoholism will refuse to lend their music to sell alcohol regardless of the money involved.

The funniest thing that ever happened to me was getting a song rejected because the writer was a mormon! He turned down a huge sum of money.

If you are doing a tv ad for an alcohol brand, make sure you have the music license agreed well in advance, as I see all these last minute dramas every day.

On a different subject I am a vegetarian non-smoker... I agreed to produce music for McDonalds, but would never get involved with the tobacco industry. Regardless of the money, it goes against my beliefs.



Anonymous said...

Every person has a different issue close to their heart, and given the situation will show boundaries and say no.

For some it may be smoking, or targeting children, or displaying women in a derogatory manner.

But we all have a subject close to our heart.

In Spain, I get disgusted at the treatment that women receive in the media. This is a country with an extremely high rate of domestic violence. Every week at least one woman dies in Spain killed by her husband. "I kill her because she is mine" That's the moto.

Spanish society's disregard for women is present in the foundation of their language and in everything you watch / read in the media. Every joke in Spain is an justification for violence against women.

My job is promoting music, getting music used in ads, compose music for ads. I would never ever get involved with a project which would justify violence against women.

That's my personal cause. I am sure we all have at least one close to our heart.



Anonymous said...

The thing about tobacco accounts is that to do a decent job of marketing them, you have to make them look cool. And really that's why people start smoking. To be cool(er). It would unethical, in a business sense, to try and sell them some other way. You wouldn't be doing your job right, and the tobacco co's would have to go elsewhere for good marketing.

Of course the problem is that 90% of smokers start before they're 18. (I looked it up) They do it because it's cool, and it makes them seem/feel more adult. It's also a great way to rebel against your teachers, parents, cops, everyone older than you. It's cool.

It's also highly addictive. The tobacco user starts while he's young, trying to fit in, and be cool. Then finds out that it's a bitch to stop. So they keep smoking, and the tobacco companies have a customer for life. Addiction is the absence of choice.

So by doing your job right (in an ethical business sense) you can only reinforce the coolness of the only product out there that kills one-third of its users/customers, when used as intended.

I don't see how anyone could enter into that deal.