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Joe Camel may be controversial, but he still works for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. And the job of former college French teacher Frances V. Creighton is to see he continues to.

Perhaps lost in critics' attacks over Joe's appeal is just how successful the campaign has been. The advertising, from Mezzina/Brown, New York, propelled the brand to the biggest growth among the top 10 cigarette brands last year.

The once stodgy brand grew 10.3% in volume, according to John Maxwell, an analyst with Wheat First Butcher Singer.

"The numbers say it works," says Ms. Creighton. "Camel has such a powerful positioning, it is compelling to smokers. He's fun and puts a smile on your face."

Introduced in 1988 for Camel's 75th anniversary, Joe's advertising has expanded dramatically. In the last year, Ms. Creighton has looked for methods to keep Joe fresh. Print and outdoor ads now give Joe a bit more of an attitude by using unusual visual perspectives, like from Joe's foot looking up.

Camel has also expanded lifestyle marketing. Joe is sponsor of the American Pool Players Association, for instance.

Now 44 and marketing director of Camel since June 1995, Ms. Creighton is certainly conscious of Joe's many critics.

"As the marketer we are very conscious of aspects of the promotion to keep above board. We don't want to see teens and children smoke," she says.

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