Warren Braden passed away this week at age 82. He’s not a household name, but Mr. Braden’s actions affected every household in America…and demonstrated how one man’s courage and determination can change Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and American culture.
Warren Braden worked as an advertising account executive, and eventually became manager of the New York office of the National Association of Broadcasters’ Advertising Code Authority, which was tasked with making sure TV commercials complied with the advertising industry’s self-imposed restrictions, and didn’t run afoul of federal regulations.
Braden was particularly concerned about cigarette advertising on TV. (Braden himself had quit smoking after he saw a movie showing an autopsy of a smoker’s cancerous lung). He especially thought that misleading cigarette ads were aimed at convincing children and teens that smoking was a fun, harmless activity.
In 1970, Braden publicly accused the head of the Advertising Code Authority of lying to Congress during a hearing. “In the most candid terms, Congress and the public have been misled as to the real nature of the broadcast self-regulatory program on cigarette commercials. They have been told that an active and effective self-regulation program exists. In reality it is virtually nonexistent…While efforts were made at one time by the Code Authority to play a significant role in dealing with the content of cigarette advertising, these efforts have failed.” Mr. Braden told Congress.
Braden also presented Congress with a confidential internal analysis that the Advertising Code Authority had done, but hadn’t released publicly. The analysis stated that in commercials, “Smoking is made to appear universally acceptable, attractive and desirable…The adult world depicted in cigarette advertising very often is a world to which the adolescent aspires.”
Braden’s “whistle-blower” actions touched off a firestorm in both Congress and the advertising industry, and were crucial in convincing Congress to ban all cigarette advertising on television. The ban went into effect on January 1, 1971, and has never been overturned.
Thus, even in today’s “anything goes” culture, two whole generations of TV viewers have never seen a commercial for tobacco on television, either broadcast or cable. And it all came about because one man had the courage to stand up to the entertainment and advertising industries, and tell the truth.
The PTC salutes the memory of Warren Braden…just as we continue his fight to hold advertisers accountable and protect children from the harmful content of TV programming.