Public Relations at its worst

Public Relations at its worst

Federal Judge criticizes tobacco lawyers on ridiculous Litigation Strategy

Not being a smoker myself, I rarely follow all of the legal battles that have been taking place within the tobacco industry in the last ten years. But I found the current (on-going) situation interesting from a marketing and communications perspective.

In case you have missed the “excitement”, here is a brief synopsis:

  • Some time ago, the tobacco industry was compelled by law to pay for public ads that spoke about the health risks of smoking (they were called “corrective statement ads”)
  • The industry was ordered to pay for these ads in 2006!
  • In what was a blatant attempt to stall the inevitable outcome – and delay the running of these ads – the tobacco industry has continued to litigate the case – arguing about what they are being asked to “say” in the ads
  • The court continues to deny the industry’s attempts to alter the copy, but the case remains unresolved to this day

From an outside perspective, the process appears to be a communications nightmare on the part of the tobacco industry (and I recognize that the term nightmare could be used for so many reasons when it comes to this industry).

But by continuing to battle the ruling in court, and arguing the minutiae of how the ad will be written, the industry looks even more petty and defensive, and the delay does nothing to create any support whatsoever for their position.

Furthermore, had the industry run the ads back in 2006, this issue would have long been finished with, the industry would have paid its dues, the court ruling would have been satisfied, and the tobacco industry would be back to conducting its “business”.

It seems apparent that a communications strategy should have been included in the legal strategy over a decade ago.