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I don't smoke. I avoid people who do. And my mother, a lifetime smoker, died last year from lung cancer.

So why am I writing to defend Joe Camel? Because the Federal Trade Commission's recent charge that he illegally targets kids troubles me.

What appears to be a sincere attempt to protect teens from the dangers of smoking is actually just another example of government misusing its regulatory power.


Apparently, the FTC's thought process went something like this:

Joe Camel is a cartoon.

Kids like cartoons.

Joe Camel is targeting kids.

Let's ban Joe Camel.


As a 42-year-old, I can confidently say, "Adults like cartoons, too." "Dilbert," "Doonesbury," "Far Side," "King of the Hill" "Ren & Stimpy," "Saturday Night Live's Real Audio" and "The Simpsons," to name just a few. (Not to mention the ones in this publication each week.)

What's more, even though Camel's share has quadrupled since the introduction of Joe Camel, Marlboro is still more popular among underage smokers. So, using the FTC's specious logic, it's just as easy to conclude that photos of cowboys are even more enticing.

Their spurious complaint opens the door to other types of proposed advertising reform, and ultimately threatens our industry's right to free speech.

True, the FTC has a right, and a responsibility, to punish companies that run false advertising. But who gave them the authority to selectively ban advertising on nothing more than subjective opinion? (That's what creative directors are for.)


Besides, the best regulatory body for advertising is still the American public. Just ask Calvin Klein. His campaign in 1995, using images of teens in more realistic settings, was pulled after the public accused him of child pornography.

I've often been called "the angriest man in advertising." Rest assured, this industry wake-up call wasn't motivated by rage. It was prompted by fear.

Mr. Wojdyla is managing partner and executive creative director, Bozell, Chicago.

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