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Viacom, A&E file with U.S. Court to be included in tobacco 'apology' ad campaign

(February 7, 2014) Two leading cable companies have filed briefs with U.S. District Court asking to be considered in the media plan for the upcoming tobacco apology ads. The ad campaign, which will publicly state the dangers of smoking, is one of the mandated outcomes in the 15-year-old lawsuit brought by the U.S. Dept. of Justice against cigarette manufacturers.

Viacom and the Arts & Entertainment Television Network recently filed amicus briefs with the federal court requesting to be included in the media plan. Both companies cited in their filings that their affiliated cable channels produce programming that reaches African-American and young viewers -- audiences that were disproportionately impacted by tobacco advertising.

After it was first disclosed in a Target Market News story that no black media outlets were included in the plan, Judge Gladys Kessler expressed concern that the media plan for corrective ads submitted seven years ago might not reach everyone it needs to reach. That plan included only ads in 34 general market newspapers and a year of commercials on three of the major TV networks, ABC, CBS and NBC.

At a court session on Jan.23, Judge Kessler asked that all of the parties submit comments by Feb. 18 on whether the media plan as approved by the tobacco companies, the U.S. Justice Dept. and other parties would be effective.

The cost to Philip Morris USA, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Lorillard Inc. to implement the media plan as presently proposed is estimated by media professionals at approximately $45 million.

Viacom in its filing said that it can reach young viewers and African-Americans through its MTV, VH1, Comedy Central and BET cable networks. "Defendants should be required to target the young adult and Black markets with their Corrective Statements," stated Viacom's brief, "just as they targeted young people and young African Americans with their deceptive advertising and marketing campaigns. Viacom's networks MTV, MTV2, VH1, Comedy Central, and BET are specifically targeted to, and in fact reach, young adults including young Black viewers."

A&E claimed that the network "has been a leader in education and corporate social responsibility, initiating extensive outreach programs that connect on-air, online and in communities nationwide ...These venues have made AETN ideal avenues to communicate important information, such as the statements ordered by the Court, particularly to actual and potential tobacco users, younger viewers, African-American adults and women."

The National Newspaper Publishers Association and the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters have asked the court to include black-owned media in the plan for "corrective ads."

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