September 19, 2013

Stanton A. Glantz, PhD

Comcast Universal's new movie RUSH promotes Marlboros worldwide

RUSH, a biopic that depicts the 1976 rivalry between Ferrari driver Nikki Lauda and MacLaren driver James Hunt. opens in LA today and nationally on September 27. 

Philip Morris emblazoned its Marlboro brand on  MacLaren team cars that season; it later switched its allegiance to Ferrari. As a result, the film is saturated with Marlboro imagery.  While the film is rated "R" in the US for reasons other than tobacco, RUSH's theatrical trailers repeatedly display the Marlboro logo In recreated racetrack, pit and garage film footage. An early trailer also shows Hunt smoking.

In late August, Legacy, the American Academy of Pediatrics and six state Attorneys General wrote Universal, asking the studio to keep smoking and the Marlboro logo out of RUSH advertising seen by kids in print, on TV and online.  John Britton (UK) also warned that RUSH's promotion would re-connect Marlboro to Formula One for another generation and asked that smoking and Marlboro logos be removed from the film's advertising material.

Partially responding to these public health concerns, distrbutors for the film RUSH in the US and Britain have digitally retouched a Formula One race car and its driver's racing suit to obliterate the Marlboro logo in broadcast trailers and other promo material accessible to kids.

But, just before the film opened in LA Universal added three publicity shots that featured Marlboro to RUSH's official website.

Public health forces have long sought to eject tobacco companies from motorsports and other events that get wide television coverage. Tobacco sponsorship is viewed as an end-run around limits on other tobacco advertising. Indeed, while RUSH the film was in development, Philip Morris International was promoting events at race tracks in Asia that featured a mocked-up Ferrari racer and the slogan "Marlboro: Red Rush" to spotlight its Formula One campaign.

 The UK rated these trailers "12A" and the film itself "15." The MPAA rated the film "R" (no-on under 17 unless accompanied by a parent) for reasons other than tobacco. As in the UK, the film's TV advertising will be seen by kids.

Attorneys General signed on because they enforce the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement (MSA), which prohibits tobacco product placement visible to kids. Philip Morris USA itself contacted Universal, asking for changes to the RUSH web site and the video release of the film; otherwise, it said, the public might get the impression that PM USA was engaged in product placement. 

While film studios have, in the past, revisited tobacco branding in video release, this is the first time we know of that tobacco branding was digitally removed froma film's TV commercials. But Marlboro will still get a promotional lift from the film. The Marlboro logo remains in the film itself; on Universal's RUSH web site; in older trailers online; and in publicity shots on RUSH web pages around the world. Universal has reduced smoking in its own youth-rated movies substantially in recent years. This episode should encourage it to pay even closer attention.

Universal Pictures, which is distributing RUSH and Working Title, a producer of RUSH, are Comcast subsidiaries.

Age classifications for RUSH remain pending in several markets, including Canada. Sweden rated RUSH "15." Germany rated it "12."


Jonathan Polansky contributed content to this blog post.



It would be more powerful to call upon PM to ask (threaten) the film producers not to show their coveted logos which they own and control.    PM has gone on record saying that they do not endorse having their logos emblazoned in movies.  Let’s ask them to put their money., legal clout, etc where their mouth is.   After all, PM pledge to stop selling cigarettes if they were ever found to be harmful to human health.  Clearly that was a false promise.  My guess is this is another example of a false statement.    Mike    


.. from South Carolina.


I think it is vitally important historical facts are not censored. Another example is the several instances of airbrushing the cigar from pictures of Winston Churchill. James Hunt was one of the most colourful and, to some, inspiring British sportsman of the last few decades. He abused tobacco, alcohol, cocaine and cannabis though remained fit throughout his career. He won the F1 World Championship and was reputed to have slept with 5000 women. On the minus side, he died of a heart attack, possibly related to his past cocaine use, at the age of 45. Present facts, not propaganda to young people and allow them to make up their minds. You might be surprised at how often they make sensible decisions. Smoking prevalence in the UK fell from over 50% to 21% in the decades before the smoking ban, when presenting facts was thought to be the way forward. Since the ban it has fallen just 1% to 20% - probably due to the enormous popularity of ecigs. Jonathan Bagley, Manchester, UK


We just don't want <EM;Rush</em; to be rated for youth and for Marlboros to be out of the ads that effectively serving as Marlboro promotions for kids in UK and most countries.

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