RJR'S CAMEL SALES DOWN SINCE OLD JOE SENT PACKING: SHIPMENTS GO FLAT, BUT SEVERAL REASONS CITED

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Six weeks after R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. halted its Camel advertising campaign featuring Old Joe, the brand's volume fell flat.

The company's earnings statement, released last week, shows that although Camel's total volume last year was up 5% for 1997, the brand's fourth-quarter shipments were flat. Joe ads were yanked midway through the third quarter.

That compares to a 6.8% volume increase in 1996 while the Old Joe effort was still going strong, according to analysts.

DIFFERING OPINIONS

Opinions are split as to whether the brand's volume was truly affected by the cancellation of the campaign or whether other factors accounted for Camel's slide.

"I think [the flat volume for Camel is] because RJR is not focusing on Camel so much as Winston," said PaineWebber analyst Manny Goldman.

But Mr. Goldman's own analysis of measured ad spending in the category in a recent report showed Camel's measured spending up 15%, to $44.8 million, for the first nine months of '97, accounting for 55% of RJR's total domestic tobacco expenditures during the period.

During the same time, Winston measured spending jumped radically, from $2.7 million for the first nine months of '96 to $17.9 million for the same period in '97.

Measured spending figures for the full fourth quarter aren't yet available.

DEPRESSED VOLUME

In its earnings release, RJR said that although sales of all its tobacco products were up 16% over the fourth quarter of '96, to $1.31 billion, volume was depressed because "shipments and those of the entire domestic industry, which declined 1% in the quarter, were influenced by wholesale buying in anticipation of national and state settlements."

An RJR spokesman said Camel volume was down in the last quarter because in fourth-quarter '96 RJR was introducing Red Kamel and Camel Menthol, two line extensions which buoyed shipment numbers. Since Camel volume is up overall for the year, he said, "I don't think the switching of campaigns impacted volume one way or the other."

NOT TOO SHORT

Ken Harris, partner at Cannondale Associates, said that it's quite possible Old Joe's demise caused volume to fall in just a few weeks.

"Six weeks isn't too short. Remember [Burger King's] Herb the Nerd? Their share dropped like a rock right away," he recalled.

He said he's seen no evidence the new campaign-themed "What you're looking for"-is resonating with consumers.

"If you take what [RJR] says at face value, that [Old Joe] was meant to be hip and cool," he said, then the new campaign lacks those attributes.

The new campaign-from Mezzina/Brown, New York, the same agency that executed the Old Joe effort-shows a stylized Camel appearing in cigarette smoke. Op-art inspired outdoor ads show the camel on the cigarette pack in psychedelic colors or surrounded by sound waves.

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