Thank You for Smoking is a clever, satirical comedy from 2005 that has a “lobbyist” as the central character who works for the Academy of Tobacco Studies. A lobbyist, in this case, is just a fancy word for the face of the company who is the main man behind their public relations. Nick Naylor is the face of smoking, and he is not just a smooth talking business man, but also a father who feels his son slowly slipping away from him because his ex-wife refuses to let them spend time together.
I chose this movie to review because it seemed like the best suit for a movie about public relations. I picked the movie after viewing this list.
What is great about this throwback is that our main character, Nick, is the guy that every woman would go home with, without him even trying. Not only does the actor Aaron Eckhart make a woman’s heart throb and a mans pride shrink, he makes you want to smoke. He is the “Colonel Sanders of Nicotine” and the “Sultan of Spin” and you honestly don’t even care that he is pumping the lungs of men, women, and children with nicotine and smoke because he is just that good.
Now being a student of public relations I know that one’s professional goal is to not be a “spinner.” We are taught to be professional, report the truth, and that the public is our customer and our first priority, not the company. But with the way Hollywood portrays this magnificent public relation practitioner you can’t help but wonder if there is some right in his wrong practices.
Although, with all of Nick’s spinning he does have some good PR practices. He knows how to talk to the public, what they want to hear, and how to portray a good campaign. But I mean hell, the guy is working as a “Merchant of Death,” so what is to be expected of the face of cigarettes? There is no way you could be a decent guy with decent PR practices and not let your morals eat you alive. But the writers take care of that little internalized debate with Nick teaching his son how in this business one requires “a moral flexibility.” And that is exactly what Nick has.
The entire movie is one PR disaster or PR opportunity after another. And for the most part, Nick is always on the top of his game. One particular situation I can point out, without spoilers, is when the company is faced with low tobacco sales and they need to figure out how to get their money bags smoking again. Who are their money bags? Teenagers. So they are faced with figuring out how to get teenagers addicted to smoking while simultaneously putting on a $50 million anti-teen-smoking campaign because they want the public to believe that they care about the health of America’s future. Sounds like a doozy right? This all happens within the first 30 minutes of the film too, it sets you up to see how wonderful Nick is at his job and how he has an answer for everything.
To begin with, Nick is the man who suggests the $50 million anti-smoking campaign (instead of the originally planned $5 million campaign) live on television. But then, he is the ingenious mind who comes up with the plan that Hollywood needs to promote smoking in their films again. He paints the picture of two lovers lighting up after their night of lust; while making this epic speech of past movie classics that created the generation of smoke dependent baby boomers. It is a recycled play, but a play that worked. The only problem is that back in the 30s and 40s no one knew about the health problems that came with smoking a pack a day, and the majority of those smoke dependent baby boomers are well on their way out of the world. So in short their losing their long-time customers.
How on earth could just releasing a few movies with Hollywood stars really boost sales among teenagers that much though? Well there’s an answer to that too. Release a new brand of cigarettes that relate and co-inside with the movie(s). BRILLIANT RIGHT? Of course teenagers will buy that brand then, especially if they see the movie stars lighting up with said brand post coitus! It’s ingenious and honestly I am surprised I have yet to see it happen. I suppose that is my question to you reader… Have you ever heard of such a smoking campaign? I myself do not smoke and am not a teenager, so I’ve never paid any attention to that kind of propaganda. My other question for you is are you a smoker and what did you think of Eckhart’s portrayal as the face of smoking? Do you think his character grew by the end of the film (if you’ve already watched it)?
Thank You for Smoking is an excellent satirical film that deserves at least one watch by any person who’s been affected by smoking or decides on a career in Public Relations. It does one thing splendidly: it makes you think.