Harvard tells Hollywood to ban cigarettes.

Inside the big picture show.
April 6 2007 1:05 PM

Puff Piece

Harvard tells Hollywood to ban cigarettes from kids' movies.

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As if all this weren't embarrassing enough, now we have an NBC press release announcing another prestigious association for the Times. We'll pass along the first couple of paragraphs verbatim:

Candidates for NBC's "The Apprentice: Los Angeles" try their hand at advertising this week by creating a newspaper supplement for The Los Angeles Times promoting a new brand of mouthwash on Sunday, April 1 (10-11 p.m. ET).

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This week's task is delivered at The Los Angeles Times' printing facility, where Trump is joined by his daughter, Ivanka, and two executives from Smartmouth, a new brand of mouthwash. The candidates are asked to design, photograph and create a supplement for The Los Angeles Times advertising a new product that keeps breath fresh. While one team adopts a sexier approach for the supplement, the other trusts science. The losers face Trump in the boardroom, and the winners get a gourmet dinner they'll never forget prepared by some very special surprise guests. 

It's tempting to wonder if the gourmet dinner is goose cooked by the executives who thought this was a good idea.

The episode was shot over the summer (and approved by Hiller's predecessor), so clearly it long predated the current brouhaha at the Times. But what possible benefit the Times could have hoped to reap lending its facilities and name to a faltering NBC-Universal show is not clear. A spokeswoman for the paper says she doesn't see any issue because no money exchanged hands. "Given the fact that the show's based in L.A., if they were going to think about reaching the L.A. audience, they had to come to the Times," she says. "I actually think it's kind of cool that it's running this weekend. Life goes on."

Maybe the paper will get to avail itself of Trump's services. After all, somebody needs to say that signature line.

(Full disclosure: I have written for and discussed employment with the Los Angeles Times in the past.) (link)

Monday, March 26, 2007

Stick the landing: If you want to go out to the movies this weekend, but you're feeling a little tapped out, you could be in luck. In an unusual deal, Universal is giving away $15 million worth of free tickets  for Peaceful Warrior, a film about a gymnast who finds salvation through a New Age-style coach named Socrates (in the form of Nick Nolte).

Peaceful Warrior is based on an autobiographical novel by Dan Millman—a hit with such seers as Deepak Chopra, Tony Robbins, and Sting. If reading about this movie gives you a sense of déjà vu, that might be because the film was released by Lionsgate last spring, though not on many screens. Peaceful Warrior has now become part of an experiment to see if a movie that presents a marketing challenge, to put it mildly, can benefit from a very cheap strategy that relies on word-of-mouth.