AMPTP Using “Big Tobacco” PR Firm

What Do Big Media & Big Tobacco Share?

By Nikki Finke

November 25, 2007

I've heard first-hand how Hollywood moguls have been trash-talking the PR job done by their side via the Alliance Of Motion Picture & Television Producers (AMPTP) in the writers strike. Well, it didn't take long for them to try to improve it. PR sources tell me that during the first days of the strike they went out and hired Hill and Knowlton, the controversial global public relations and public affairs giant, to help get their word out.

Remember that full page ad that ran November 15th in the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times? That unsigned ad, titled "An Open Letter", that was so different in tone from the strident pre- and post-strike statements issued in the name of AMPTP president Nick Counter? That ad which the Writers Guild Of America decried as "misleading and patronizing" for committing "sins of omission"? Several savvier journalists, including TV Week's Jim Hibberd, noticed that the ad seemed to "represent a tactical shift", almost an attempt to "wrap Hollywood employers in warm and understanding tones." Boy, did it ever.

Because that ad was not just Hill & Knowlton's brainchild, it's the firm's bread and butter. The flackery has used that type of ad — classic in style, denuded of graphics — over and over with great results since 1953. That's when it first debuted to help the tobacco industry fight medical findings about the harmful effects of cigarette smoking. "These are the same people who told you lung cancer is good for you," a PR source told me after drawing the connection. "The latest AMPTP ad is lifted from 'A Frank Statement,' which Big Tobacco used for years in U.S. newspapers to sell the idea that cigarettes were harmless and the health zealots were full of shit. It’s pure Hill and Knowlton." By 1954, "A Frank Statement" was published in 50 major newspapers across the country kicking off a campaign to disseminate misinformation about the health effects of tobacco.

I know several Hollywood moguls who have vigorously pursued an anti-smoking campaign. Question is, did Big Media know that it was mimicking Big Tobacco?


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