Bradley Adviser Is Linked to Tobacco Ads
WASHINGTON -- Bill Bradley unveiled his first round of television commercials in his Presidential campaign Tuesday, but he came under immediate attack from Vice President Al Gore's advisers for relying on an advertising executive who once worked with the
Alex Kroll, the head of Bradley's advertising team, had extensive contacts with the tobacco industry when he was chief executive of Young & Rubicam, the Madison Avenue agency. During Kroll's tenure, Young & Rubicam handled the account that was responsible for the Joe Camel commercials that marketed cigarettes to young adults.
While there are many documents linking Kroll to the tobacco industry, the degree of his relationship is not clear. In a letter to Kroll in 1987, E. A. Horrigan Jr., then the vice chairman of RJR Nabisco Holdings, then the parent company of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco at the time, thanked Kroll "for agreeing to take time out of your busy schedule to meet with me to discuss the unprecedented assault on tobacco advertising."
And an internal RJR memorandum in 1991 showed that executives of the tobacco company viewed Kroll as an official to turn to to defend the Joe Camel account. The memorandum specifically suggested that Kroll be given talking points to respond to criticism of the campaign, which used cartoon renderings of a camel to sell the Camel brand of cigarettes.
Kroll said in a telephone interview that he had had meetings with tobacco executives but insisted that he had no direct involvement in the Joe Camel advertisements.
"People have had tobacco accounts since the beginning of advertising," Kroll said. "It's highly irrelevant that I was C.E.O. And that that in some way relates to the Bradley campaign is preposterous. I was C.E.O. of a company with 5,000 clients, one of which was R. J. Reynolds."
He added: "Did I have some meetings with these clients to solicit their business? I'm sure I met with them at some time or another. But this is eye-opening to me that it's relevant. I wasn't the creative director of the account. I wasn't the leader of the account."
Even so, Gore campaign officials said they may pounce on Kroll's links to the tobacco industry. In particular, one campaign official, who spoke on the condition that his name not be used, said it was hypocritical for Bradley to campaign on a promise of protecting young people, particularly the poor, while working with "a guy who was responsible for trying to sell tobacco products right to inner-city kids."
By criticizing the Bradley campaign, Gore officials might also neutralize their own connections with tobacco.
One of Gore's top media consultants, Carter Eskew, has been widely denounced by health organizations for helping the Philip Morris Companies develop advertisements to undercut support for a planned Federal lawsuit against the tobacco industry. He also helped create a $40 million advertising blitz last year by the cigarette industry that has been called instrumental in helping to defeat Federal anti-tobacco legislation.
Anita Dunn, Bradley's communications director, said Eskew's involvement with the tobacco industry was far more serious.
"There is really very little comparison to be made between someone who years ago headed an advertising agency that happened to have a client, and having as one of your top paid advisers someone you hired while he was still working for the tobacco industry having killed what the vice president called one of his top legislative priorities."
The Joe Camel campaign, which was discontinued in 1997, was highly successful for R. J. Reynolds. But it also was highly controversial. Reynolds had said the campaign was intended to appeal to younger adult smokers. But antismoking groups said the cartoon appearance was designed to appeal to children.
Kroll was head of Young & Rubicam, one of the world's largest advertising agencies, when it took over the Camel account in 1989. About two years later Young & Rubicam lost the account, with an estimated $30 million in annual advertising spending, to an agency started by two former employees.
Kroll retired from Young & Rubicam in late 1994.
Kroll became friends with Bradley when they worked together in 1996 on the Advertising Council, the nonprofit organization that produces public-service announcements. He is an unpaid adviser to Bradley and has played a central role in recruiting other Madison Avenue advertising executives to help Bradley shape his message.
The Bradley campaign Tuesday unveiled its first two commercials, which feature the closing refrain: "It can happen." The two advertisements will begin being broadcast in New Hampshire on Wednesday and in Iowa on Thursday; they are being produced by Linda Kaplan Thaler, a New York executive who worked on the Clinton-Gore campaign in 1992, and the firm of MacWilliams, Cosgrove, Smith, Robinson of Washington.
The first commercial is a 60-second biographical sketch that tries to cast Bradley as a caring, influential and experienced politician with a diverse background.
Somewhat surprisingly, the commercial skips across the parts of Bradley's rÃ©sumÃ© that he dwells on the most in his stump speeches: his small-town upbringing in Crystal City, Mo., and his experiences as a star basketball player -- while focusing on Bradley's 18-year tenure as a senator from New Jersey.
Though Bradley has tried to portray himself as a political outsider, the advertisement includes a shot of the Capitol dome and has two veteran Democratic senators, Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York and Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, praising him as a fighter for tax fairness and against racism.
The second advertisement lasts 30 seconds and features Bradley speaking directly into the camera about how he is trying to run a "different campaign" that concentrates on issues instead of sound bites.