Saturday, December 01, 2007


Stick That In Your Book and Smoke It

I'm on NPR Weekend Edition this morning to talk about my essay in tomorrow's NYTBR on the 1970s practice of placing cigarette ads bound directly into the center of paperback books. Thanks to the 40+ million pages of subpoenaed and leaked internal documents in the UCSF Legacy Tobacco Documents database, I found the paper trail of who was behind it (most of the big paperback publishers, starting with Pocket Books) and how much money was involved (millions).

And no, the authors weren't making a dime.

Lorillard alone ran ads in 540 million (!) paperbacks in a four-year period. They mostly hit pulpy mass-market stuff, but some literary authors got hit too -- including, incredibly, 74,000 copies of The Bluest Eye.

Want the exact names and numbers? I've put the original marketing studies, print run orders, and customer complaints in a timeline below, linked directly into Times and Legacy docs:

28 January 1958: The New York Times reports the formation of the Quality Book Group by Roy Benjamin of the Benjamin Company, along with Pocket Books, Bantam Books, and the New American Library.

4 December 1961: In an early Benjamin Company overture to cigarette companies, Roy Benjamin writes to American Tobacco Company about ad rates for the back cover of Joe Gargiola's Baseball Is A Funny Game.

17 December 1965: The New York Times reports that Dr. Benjamin Spock has lost his fight to keep ads out of Baby and Child Care.

24 January 1966: A BBDO Advertising analysis signals paperback advertising "on a large scale."

3 October 1966: Roy Benjamin contacts Liggett & Myers (maker of Lark cigarettes) suggesting that it sponsor a book titled It's Safe to Smoke.

29 July 1971: An internal memo by Lorillard media director William Santoni lists a 155 paperback title ad buy for August 1971.

10 November 1971: A letter to Benjamin Company by William Santoni of Lorillard orders an ad buy in 74,000 copies of The Bluest Eye.

19 December 1971
: The Times reports that, in the wake of a TV ad ban, tobacco ad spending has migrated to other media. It singles out Lorillard's use of paperback ads.

April 1972: deKadt Marketing and Research Inc. conducts a national study that finds paperback ads effective.

11 March 1974: Robert W. Lee of Alexandria, WV complains in a letter to the Tobacco Institute that his 10 and 14 year-old sons have read books containing ads for Kent and True cigarettes. Both are Lorillard products.

11 November 1975: A Lorillard memorandum notes a four-year total of $3 million in expenditures for 540 million paperback ads.

26 September 1983: Philip K. Shaner of the William Esty Company suggests to R.J. Reynolds that they make an ad buy in Dave Marsh's [Book of] Rock Lists.

28 November 1983: A Nicholas Research International study of Salem smokers in St. Louis finds that they "read very little."

30 December 1985: A last gasp. John Heacock of the Heacock Literary Agency contacts Philip Morris offering ad placement in a new paperback-sized hardcover format by SOS Publications of Los Angeles -- "an ideal audience for cigarette advertising." On January 9th Philip Morris V.P. John L. Thompson responds, notes Lorillard's previous use of the format, and declines the offer.

Incidentally, here's one curious discovery that wound up on the cutting floor: I found an October 1986 Philip Morris memo detailing an attempt to plant a book review under a fake name in the San Francisco Examiner.

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