IdeaConference

OLD JOE IS NO-SHOW IN NEW CAMEL ADS: ICON-LIKE IMAGE IS USED INSTEAD OF CONTROVERSIAL CARTOON ANIMAL

By Published on .

There's a camel in R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.'s new advertising campaign for Camel cigarettes, but it isn't Old Joe.

Instead, the hazy image of a dromedary more in keeping with the stylized icon on the Camel cigarette pack materializes almost imperceptibly in the print-only effort breaking in April magazines, including Details, Spin and Vibe.

In the first execution from Mezzina/Brown, New York, it is only by peering closely at smoke wafting from a woman's mouth that the camel's image can be detected. In the corner of the ad is a Camel Lights pack and the brand's first tagline in years: "What you're looking for."

NOT DITCHING OLD JOE

RJR maintains it isn't ditching Old Joe, a move tobacco critics and the government-which the company is fighting in court over rules that would ban cartoon imagery in tobacco ads-would applaud.

"We have no intention of walking away from Joe," an RJR spokesman said. "He'll remain the focus of our campaign, but we wanted to add a little variety to the mix, bring something new, fresh and unexpected to the table."

The spokesman said a Camel campaign without Joe ran as recently as a year-and-a-half ago.

It's believed, however, that RJR is experimenting with ads excluding the cartoon camel should the regulation battle be lost. The non-cartoonish camel outline is still a powerful symbol for the brand.

"Absolutely not," said the spokesman when asked if RJR was responding to the regulation threat with the new advertising.

ENTER 'THE BEAST'

The current execution is one of four. All use the camel image that the spokesman calls "the beast" in subliminal ways. In a second ad, a woman sitting at a bar-but not smoking-lifts her glass to reveal the image in a ring of condensation. A third shows a man in jeans with a frayed area highlighting the camel outline. The last reveals the neck of a guitar with a cigarette tucked under the strings. The smoke curls up in the camel shape.

The overall campaign isn't notable only for the lack of Old Joe. The tone is less slick and more sophisticated than recent Camel ads. The use of the tag, moreover, indicates more of a selling proposition than simply showing Joe Camel and his crew in cool situations.

Each of the ads showcases the Camel Lights pack in the right-hand corner, but the spokesman said the campaign isn't just for Lights. Rather, like the Old Joe

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