In an attempt at hipness, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. has aligned its Camel brand cigarettes with the burgeoning artist community of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Beginning next month, packs of Camel cigarettes, pictured at left, will appear with an image of an iconic camel on Williamburg's Bedford Avenue—complete with hot dog cart, subway entrance, and what looks like buskers rocking out.
This attempt at Brooklyn cool can't help but remind smokers or ad junkies of the brand's cartoonish "Joe the Camel" campaign which targeted the youth market during the '80s and '90s. The star? Good ol' Joe, sporting a James Bond, Jimmy Dean or Miami Vice look, either playing pool or lounging with shades on and baseball cap turned backwards.
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. says it chose Williamsburg and ten other neighborhoods across the country because it's a community that's in line with ideas smokers associate Camel with—innovation, freedom and individualism. Those traits apparently also exist in smokers hanging out in Austin, Seattle, Las Vegas and New Orleans where the dromedary will also be showing up on packs of smokes soon.
"It's identified as an artistic community," company spokesperson David Howard said. "Very arts based, be it music, performing arts or visual arts...Sort of a free spirit and individuality, which are traits that are very much identified with the Camel brand."
But if you read the fine print, perhaps it's still just about being cool. This line will be printed on the back of the Will'burg packs: “It’s about last call, a sloppy kiss goodbye and a solo saunter to a rock show in an abandoned building.” And in a nod to well-read hipsters, the pack even mentions the tree—you know, that tree that grows in Brooklyn: "It's where a tree grows. It's Camel in the Williamsburg corner of Brooklyn."
New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley says that the campaign is a cynical means of getting young people addicted to smoking. "A large multi-national corporation shouldn't be trying to take advantage of young people's desire to be independent, to rebel and to be hip," Farley said on Friday. He added that the city health department did not have plans to contact R.J. Reynolds but hoped the tobacco company would get the message through the media.
Camel's new branding campaign has impeccable timing. Smoking is a controversial subject in New York City and its boroughs. In September, Mayor Bloomberg announced plans to extend the city's smoking ban to parks, beaches, marinas, boardwalks and pedestrian plazas and city officials are considering the proposal.
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