Australia Media Politics

Oh Look, The Alliance of Australian Retailers Got Hacked…

When I saw this ad on the TV earlier this evening, my first thought was that the “Alliance of Australian Retailers” (seen here campaigning against the Australian Labor government’s proposed introduction of plain packaging for cigarettes) would almost certainly turn out to be a front for some tobacco company…

…and of course it is, as The Age confirms (BAT, Philip Morris and Imperial, to be precise).

But then I went to their website, to read that “this campaign has ended”.

Really? That’s odd, I thought, given that I had just seen their ad on TV (and I spotted a massive billboard promoting their message just yesterday).

Even stranger, for a campaign supported by three tobacco companies, was the “What We Stand For” page, because apparently they stand for:

# Emphysema
# Coronary artery disease
# Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary disease
# Bladder and kidney cancer
# Stomach cancer
# Bronchitis
# Peripheral artery disease
# Acute myeloid leukemia
# Colorectal cancer
# Abdominal aortic aneurysm
# Kidney cancer
# Liver cancer
# Prostate cancer
# Pancreatic cancer
# Erectile dysfunction in men
# Pneumonia
# Cataracts
# Periodontitis
# Cervical cancer

Very true. But I wasn’t expecting quite that level of honesty from the tobacco giants… Were they planning a new direction of truth in advertising, I wondered?

Elsewhere the site told me that:

You can find links here to information about why smoking is bad, common smoking myths, and why Tobacco companies love to pose as Associations

I wondered if someone had set up a fake website to counteract the campaign, but, as the whois database confirms, is indeed registered to the lobbying organisation behind the campaign (“The Civic Group”, a 10 employee company without much of a website of their own).

And then, as soon as I’d finished writing my post they were back on message, with the site reverting to the version I’d found in Google’s cache.

How very odd. I guess someone hacked into their website and made a few subtle changes. I wonder who was behind that little bit of internet japery (and how long it was live…)