TheTruth.com is an anti-tobacco company campaign in the United States. The campaign is run by the American Legacy Foundation, which was founded under the terms of the Master Settlement Agreement, between the US tobacco companies and 46 US states and 5 territories. TheTruth.com uses Web, print and television to get its message across. They have no public phone number, and they keep their top organizers secret to the public.
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The truth campaign was modelled after an anti-smoking campaign in Florida.  Florida's Office of Tobacco Control formed the Florida Tobacco Pilot Program in 1997. The program set out to drive a wedge between the tobacco industry's advertising and a youth audience. The program not only assembled a team of advertising and public relations firms to develop the marketing portion of the campaign, but also directly polled Florida's youth. From this emerged the campaign concept of a youth movement against tobacco companies promoted through grassroots advocacy and a youth-driven advertising campaign.
In March 1998, student delegates at a summit sponsored by Florida's Office of Tobacco Control voted to change the theme of the campaign to "truth, a generation united against tobacco." In April 1998, Florida launched a $25 million advertising campaign that included 33 television commercials, seven billboards, eight print ads and four posters. Modeling their approach after commercial marketing to teens, the Florida "Truth" campaign incorporated a variety of "in-your-face" styles into its ads, incorporating strategies ranging from edgy-humor to high technology. The ads also depicted real teenagers' opinions on the tobacco industry.
The American Legacy Foundation receives the majority of its funding from payments to the National Public Education Fund established by the Master Settlement Agreement. The MSA called for payments to the fund for five years and thereafter for years in which the tobacco companies participating in the agreement collectively have a 99.05% market share. The foundation received what is likely the last guaranteed payment in 2003. The participating manufacturers’ share does not currently meet the threshold and is not expected to in the foreseeable future.
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The ads are characterized by dramatic camera angles and the use of living people to represent supposed statistical deaths attributed to tobacco smoke. Manipulating and omitting information to further their agenda is a common theme, but is entirely on par with the types of tactics tobacco companies have used for decades in order to find better and more lucrative ways to market their toxic and deadly products to any demographic possible. Advertisements have been particularly dramatic and subject to hyperbole. The campaign also utilizes "hidden cameras" for many of their spots. Early ads featured street scenes where large buildings are used as symbols for the corporate offices of the tobacco industry as a whole, often surrounded by hundreds of 'dead' youth.
In 2006, the ads took on an urban overtone, utilizing both the Internet address and the slang term 'whudafxup'. The new theme presents its anti-smoking message in a more intangible, conversational manner, documentary style, often with actor Derrick Beckles.
In 2008, the television ads took on a new tone. The commercials start off in a manner consistent with the 2006 ads, but then quickly delved into an upbeat song-and-dance number. These newer ads tended to have cartoon characters as well as the live-action performers during the number.
The Sunny Side of Truth Remix Project brings together popular artists to remix songs from the Sunny Side of truth ads.
In 2009, the television commercials changed once again. The commercials feature a single job interviewer (the actor Mike Rock) who asks people questions about their willingness to take a job selling products having harmful or lethal effects on customers. The implication is in the campaign's tagline: "Do you have what it takes?" to work for 'big tobacco."
After the 2009 "recruiter" spots began airing, TheTruth & VH-1 created two cross-promotional parodies of these commercials with reality television stars Mercedes "Prancer" Clausen, and Megan Hauserman appearing as the interviewees along with the original recruiter Mike Rock.
The truth campaign has been subject to criticism over the implications of its advertisements. They are also subject to general criticism regarding the effectiveness of anti-smoking ads.
Questions regarding racial implications
In a 2002 editorial in the Columbia Spectator, conservative commentator Jaime Sneider contended that thetruth.com attempts "to create the illusion of a racist conspiracy perpetrated by 'Big Tobacco'." Sneider notes that some truth commercials contain the claim that "Tobacco gives black males 50% more lung cancer than white males." Sneider argues, "Obviously, tobacco itself hasn't been engineered to increase the health risk for blacks; therefore, the sentence would more accurately read, 'Black males are 50% more likely than white males to contract lung cancer from tobacco.'"
Sneider states that the truth campaign avoids this phrasing because "the focus of the sentence would then be removed from their object of contempt, and placed on the very people who choose to smoke." despite differences in tobacco-related cancer deaths. Some researchers argue that the difference may be accounted for by socioeconomic factors relating to early reports and treatment of cancer.
Litigation and complaints
A truth campaign radio ad prompted Lorillard Tobacco Company to pursue litigation against the American Legacy Foundation from July 2001 until its resolution in July 2006. The truth campaign ran a radio ad called "Dog Walker" during June and July 2001. In the ad, an actor who identified himself as a dog walker placed a phone call to Lorillard, offering to sell Lorillard the urine from his dogs. According to the ad, urine and tobacco both contain urea.
Initially, Lorillard accused the ad agency of violating the laws regarding the taping of telephone conversations and threatened to refer them to the criminal authorities. Lorillard also accused the Truth campaign of including false information in the ad. In October 2001, Lorillard filed a Motion for a Declaratory Ruling with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), asking the FCC to rule that the radio stations’ broadcast of the ad violated an FCC regulation regarding broadcasting of telephone conversations. In November 2001, Lorillard notified the American Legacy Foundation of their intent to litigate against the organization and its ad agency for defamation. Lorillard stated that it would not sue if the foundation agreed to a series of demands. Accordingly, the foundation entered into discussions with Lorillard to attempt an out-of-court resolution. However, on January 18, 2002, Lorillard abandoned discussions and began to pursue a new claim against it. Lorilland purported that portions of the Truth campaign violated the Master Settlement Agreement's prohibition against "vilification" or "personal attacks" against the tobacco companies.
After a series of cases in both Delaware and North Carolina, the matter was resolved by the Delaware Supreme Court on July 17, 2006. They ruled unanimously that the truth campaign did not violate the Master Settlement Agreement.
The Citizen's Commission to Protect the Truth was founded to ensure continued funding of the truth Campaign, citing its reach to youth and its effectiveness. Among its citations was a study published in the American Journal of Public Health demonstrating that the Truth campaign has helped reduce smoking among young people.
The Citizens' Commission to Protect the Truth
The Citizens' Commission to Protect the Truth was founded to support continued funding of the truth campaign. Under the terms of the Master Settlement Agreement, tobacco companies were required to pay into the National Public Education Fund portion of the Master Settlement Agreement through 2003. The Master Settlement Agreement requires payments to the Fund be made only as long as the participating tobacco manufacturers maintained at least 99.05 percent of the U.S. tobacco market; the tobacco companies no longer met this requirement as of 2003. According to the Commission, the truth campaign was effective due its thorough reach of youth. They claim that 75% of all 12 to 17 year-olds in the United States could accurately describe one or more of the Truth ads. They further claim about 90% of youths said the ad they saw was convincing and 85% said the ad gave them good reasons not to smoke. It is unclear, however, which study or studies the Commission is citing.
Study supports effectiveness of truth ads
In a news release dated February 23, 2005, The Citizens' Commission to Protect the Truth cited a study published by the American Journal of Public Health. The study, conducted by researchers from RTI International, Columbia University, and the American Legacy Foundation, analyzed data from Monitoring the Future, collected from students between 1997 and 2002. As the Monitoring The Future data did not specifically ask about exposure to the Truth campaign, the study grouped participants based on television markets to analyze the effect of the campaign. The study showed there was a 3.2% decline in smoking before the campaign launch, during 1997 through 1999, compared with 6.8% after the campaign launch in the years 2000 through 2002. The study also concluded that, while there was no statistically significant relationship between overall youth smoking prevalence and the campaign in 2000 (just a few months after the campaign began), there was a statistically significant effect during 2001.
- "Social Marketing Institute - Success Stories - Florida "truth" Campaign". Social-marketing.org. 1997-08-25. Retrieved 2010-08-24.
- JAIME SNEIDER (2002-01-24). Lies From TheTruth.com. The Columbia Spectator. Retrieved 2013-06-24.
- JAIME SNEIDER (2002-01-24). Lies From TheTruth.com. The Columbia Spectator. Retrieved 2013-06-24.
- "After Winning Debut, Women Take on Ivies". Columbiaspectator.com. Retrieved 2010-08-24.
- Bruce Leistikow, M.D., M.S. Lung cancer rates as an index of tobacco smoke exposures: validation against black male fnon-lung cancer death rates, 1969–2000. Retrieved 2010-08-24.
- "Legacy Litigation | The American Legacy Foundation". Web.archive.org. Archived from the original on 2007-10-12. Retrieved 2010-08-24.
- "Mass Media Bureau Action Comment Sought On Motion For Declaratory Ruling" (Press release). Federal Communications Commission. November 5, 2001. Retrieved 2010-08-24.
- "FAQs | The American Legacy Foundation". Web.archive.org. 2008-02-13. Archived from the original on 2008-02-13. Retrieved 2010-08-24.
- "Truth Campaign". Protect the Truth. Retrieved 2010-08-24.
- "News Room". Protect the Truth. 2005-02-23. Retrieved 2010-08-24.
- "Evidence of a Dose-Response Relationship Between "truth" Antismoking Ads and Youth Smoking Prevalence - Farrelly et al. 95 (3): 425 - American Journal of Public Health". Ajph.aphapublications.org. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2004.049692. Retrieved 2010-08-24.