As if things weren't already bad enough for the PR industry

Merchants of DeathZap2it reports that NBC is developing a television series pilot based on “Thank You for Smoking,” the movie adaptation of Christopher Buckley’s novel.

For those who missed it, the movie/novel’s protagonist, Nick Naylor, is a PR spokesman/lobbyist for Big Tobacco. He consorts with fellow “Merchants of Death” who represent the gun and alcohol lobbies. While ultimately Naylor emerges with a vestige of integrity, the overall context portrays PR at its worst: amoral, facile and mercenary.

If this one gets picked up for the prime time season, PR practitioners everywhere should get used to friends failing to return telephone calls and neighbours’ kids refusing to come out and play with their children.

  • To be fair, the film draws the same conclusion about Hollywood agents, tobacco executives, journalists and politicians.

  • And if it doesn’t get picked up… PR practitioners everywhere should get used to friends failing to return telephone calls and neighbors’ kids refusing to come out and play with their children. That’s true now!

    – Amanda

  • Sean

    “To be fair, the film draws the same conclusion about Hollywood agents, tobacco executives, journalists and politicians.”

    Hmm, that is pretty small comfort. Sounds like this show will do nothing but further entrench the culture of cynism that has swept the western world. No one comes out the winner in that scenario.

    Also, it is more than a little ironic that the PR industry has done such a poor job of managing its own reputation in our society.

    But enough about that…time to get back to spinning…

  • Trevor Evans

    To be fair to the makers of the movie, many practitioners do have the characteristics described as amoral, facile and mercenary. This is unfortunate for those of us who still remember the lessons we learned in Sunday school. Furthermore, the public will not differentiate between those practitioners who practice ethical pr and those who do not. Hold on tight, it looks like it may be a rocky road when the hunt for the “spin doctors” commences!

  • Judy Gombita

    I saw the second screening (world premier redux?) of Thank You for Smoking at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival. Afterwards there was a Q&A with director Jason Reitman (son of Ivan) and star, Aaron Eckhart.

    Not surprisingly, several of the questions concerned the ethics of the main protagonist. Audience members wanted to know what was the underlying message of the film? Reitman claimed it/he was firmly in the camp of anti-smoking. He said that very few cigarettes are even viewed in the film, let alone scenes of people smoking.

    I remember Aaron Eckhart weighing in at that point and indicating that might have been partially his fault. He claimed to be an ex-smoker who had gone hypnotism therapy, meaning that if he was anywhere near a cigarette he would have begun clucking like a chicken.

    Who knows: maybe a spinning chicken would be quite effective.

  • As someone making the transition mid career from marketing and sales into public relations, my reply is so what. I am getting into this career because of the code of ethics laid out by CPRS and IABC.

    The chances that a TV version of “Thank you for Smoking” becoming a sustainable TV series is slim. The attrition for even a smart series is very high on over the air TV (as opposed to cable).

    I am proud of the profession I am going into. It comes down to at what point do you draw a line and say, sorry I can’t work for you as an employer/client?

    In my case,I refuse to work for tobbaco, firearms, chronic polluters or the gambling industry. The characters in the movie don’t know where their personal line is. Where do your personal ethics come into play with your choice of client and employer?

    We are the real representatives for the profession and should walk the talk as best we can under the circumstances if we want respect from our peers in other professions, friends and family.

    William Smith

  • Well said, William! We ARE the representatives of the profession. Every day we live our values. And they will be seen for what they are.