‘acceptable rebellion’: marketing hipster aesthetics to sell camel cigarettes in the us

Interventions

Just as last year&#x02019 s fashions are cast aside for this season&#x02019 s, hipsters are not committed to smoking when it no longer suits their image or social needs and hipsters have the capacity to regard smoking as a non essential behaviour or trend. Because addiction is not fully appreciated by young adults, however, the temporary identity social smoking confers can harden into physiological rather than merely social identities. Public health can take advantage of its regulatory powers and ability to advertise in venues the tobacco industry cannot to head off young adult smoking.

Because of the MSA, the tobacco industry cannot advertise at large music festivals, for example, because they are all ages events. Smoke free marketers have the opportunity to develop a presence in this arena. The American Legacy Foundation&#x02019 s truth campaign participated in the Van&#x02019 s Warp tour,83 a punk rock music concert that travelled across the country and attracts tens of thousands of the hipster aspirational psychographic at each stop. Tobacco control projects have a monopoly on this valuable venue and can reach a wider audience. Smoke free interventions such as this festival or at other privileged locations such as coffee shops, with the right approach mimicking tobacco industry marketing practices (hiring young, cool, attractive marketing representatives) can execute high visibility and propensity to quit level interventions with less money than the tobacco industry spends on its adult only venues.

A2008 in venue study found 56% of hipsters aged 18&#x02013 29 smoke socially.84 How to effectively help this targeted population reduce tobacco use? A possible solution comes from programs that use informal interventions led by aspirational peers to lower smoking prevalence among youth. In a UK school based youth tobacco use prevention program,85 researchers asked students to identify the leaders in their class, the children most classmates looked up to and most wanted to be like. Those identified peer leaders were then trained to provide informal peer education and, more importantly, to act as tobacco free role models for their admiring classmates. Engaging social leaders to deliver smoke free messages and act as smoke free role models may be a successful strategy for targeting young adult hipsters as well.

If young adult hipsters (trendsetters) are more socially visible and have more social connections than ordinary age group peers, they have an increased ability to effect smoking mores positively or negatively. Data from the Framingham Heart Study demonstrated a 61% higher risk of smoking if one&#x02019 s close friend smoked 29% if friends of friends smoke and 11% for friends of friends of friends.86 These findings are consistent with RJR&#x02019 s expectation that the behaviour of trendsetters may have a &#x02018 trickle down&#x02019 effect on more mainstream consumers.15 Similarly, identifying and motivating influential group members to lead the pack in remaining smoke free can effect entire groups (and their affiliated groups). Lower social acceptability for smoking has a profound impact on smoking prevalence87 yet must be cultivated through group specific communication channels bearing culturally relevant messengers and messages.

Outrage like that evinced by Michiko Stehrenberger and the bands featured in Rolling Stone incident can be (and has been) galvanised by successful tobacco control messages to encourage critical target markets to speak out against their culture&#x02019 s exploitation by tobacco corporations. A prime example is the American Legacy Foundation&#x02019 s (formerly Florida&#x02019 s) &#x02018 truth&#x02019 campaign, which marshals youthful rebellion against tobacco industry manipulation of young people.88,89 A 2007 truth campaign called &#x02018 whudafxup&#x02019 focused on irony, deadpan humour and graffiti street culture. &#x02018 Whudafxup&#x02019 , as a fabricated word, fits the slang of urban youth street culture. As a public health campaign, &#x02018 whudafxup&#x02019 integrated the rebellious allure of graffiti art, DIY stencilling instructions and stencil patterns to download from the internet and strong messages of exposure of and resistance to tobacco industry lies. As with this campaign, the use of the internet, mobile phone and other communication technologies increasingly is a component of public health campaigns. Figure 3 shows the &#x02018 two faced&#x02019 stencil created by graffiti artist Eelus for the campaign.

Camel cigarettes return to print ads

R.J. Reynolds Tobacco is advertising Camel cigarettes in magazines again after a five year hiatus, drawing the attention of five health groups that claim the ads target teenagers. Ads for Camel Crush cigarettes, which contain a breakable menthol capsule in the filter, have appeared in at least 24 magazines published by Time Inc., Conde Nast and Wenner Media this spring, according to the health organizations.

A Camel Crush magazine ad

A spokesman for R.J. Reynolds, the nation’s second largest tobacco company, confirmed the return to print advertising, but would not elaborate on the company’s strategy.

“We advertise in a broad range of titles to communicate to a broad range of adult tobacco consumers,” said David Howard, senior communications director for parent company Reynolds American. “When dealing with brand marketing, you’re always looking to evolve.”

R.J. Reynolds stopped advertising Camel cigarettes in newspapers or consumer magazines in late 2007 after drawing criticism and lawsuits for an ad in Rolling Stone that was wrapped around a cartoon. During that same year, the company also faced scrutiny from some members of the U.S. House of Representatives over its Camel No. 9 brand cigarettes, which were marketed toward women.

Since 2007, R.J. Reynolds has promoted smokeless tobacco products in print, Mr. Howard said. Ads for the cigarette brand American Spirit, which is owned by Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company, a subsidiary of Reynolds American, also appear in print.

The five health organizations the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, Legacy, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association say the company’s latest effort appeals to minors because the ads include magazines with a high number of young readers.

The groups made their argument in a May 28 letter to the National Association of Attorneys General, which provides guidance to state attorneys general on a variety of subjects, including issues related to the landmark 1998 settlement with tobacco companies.

“R.J. Reynolds cannot be allowed to get away with yet another marketing campaign that entices America’s kids into a deadly addiction,” the groups’ letter said. Nine of the magazines named by the groups Entertainment Weekly, ESPN The Magazine, Sports Illustrated, Rolling Stone, People, Glamour, InStyle, Us Weekly and Vogue show a total teen readership of 12.9 million, the letter said, citing data from industry researcher GfK MRI.

“Reynolds seems to put a ‘kick me’ sign on themselves every time they make a move like this,” said Peter Hamm, of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. “They’ve come out of the box after five years of being dark to target a who’s who list of magazines that appeal to teenagers.”

Spokeswomen for Time Inc. and Conde Nast, which publish several of the magazines, said Thursday evening that they would try to respond but did not provide comment by Friday afternoon. A spokeswoman for Wenner’s Us Weekly and Rolling Stone did not respond to messages left seeking comment.

Magazines, which continue to face headwinds in print advertising, are free to accept advertising from tobacco companies. But the 1998 settlement between the four largest tobacco companies and 46 U.S. states, a pact known as the Master Settlement Agreement, created broad restrictions on the marketing of cigarettes, including language that prohibited the targeting of youth. In 2001, the state of California sued R.J. Reynolds, alleging it violated the ban by placing ads in magazines with high teen readership. Three years later, R.J. Reynolds settled with the state of California, agreeing to restrictions on its advertisements in magazines with a large number of teen readers.

The restrictions, which R.J. Reynolds’ Mr. Howard said were in place prior to the settlement, state that the company will only advertise in magazines where at least 85% of readers are 18 and older when data are available on readers older than 12. For magazines that offer only data on readers 18 and older, the company buys ads if the median age of the audience is 23 or older.

Lorillard, the third largest maker of cigarettes, has similar restrictions on its magazine advertising. The largest tobacco company in the U.S., Philip Morris USA, a subsidiary of Altria, does not advertise tobacco in print, according to spokesperson.

Magazines have continued to do well by tobacco companies despite the restrictions. The tobacco industry spent $125 million on advertising in measured media in 2007, according to Kantar Media, including $104.2 million on consumer magazines. Last year it spent $113.5 million on measured media, including $96.2 million on consumer magazines. Reynolds American spent $31.9 million last year across all its brands and products, Kantar said, including $2.5 million on Camel cigarettes and $29.2 million on American Spirit.

Advertising in measured media such as print is just one part of tobacco companies’ marketing strategy, which includes promotional efforts such as displays at retail, direct to consumer marketing and events.

In this article

  • Health
  • Media
  • PR
  • Print
  • Regulation

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