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The 1940’s presented a far different version of America then we live in today, smoking was not only a widely accepted pastime, but many people didn’t even consider it a bad habit. While there were a few studies that had linked smoking to bad long-term effects they were few and far between and so, the habit was much more popular at the time. In 1946 the RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company produced a pro-Camel Cigarette Ad that seemed, at first glance, to be nothing more than a typical ad but upon closer examination it became clear that the ad used elements, such as a doctor, to give consumers a subconscious sense that purchasing Camels could actually benefit them somehow – almost as if the doctor were prescribing them Camels.
The ad’s aesthetics create a medium where producers have highlighted certain features of their product as “important” whilst using misleading imagery to further their agenda of selling the product. The highlight of the ad seems to be the doctor, who dominates nearly half of the advertisement; his presence creates a sense of comfort and a false allusion of benefit to purchasing Camel cigarettes. As a typical consumer would you not assume that, “if doctors think it’s ok, it’s probably ok”? The use of a doctor almost implies that, as is his job, the doctor is prescribing the Camel’s to the consumers viewing the ad. Along with the doctor the ad includes a section that describes the study conducted and it’s results. These results are simple white text on a black background, so they pop, and a pack of camel cigarettes are featured next to the textual blurb, as a means to simultaneously show the consumer what a pack of Camels looks like, and to remind the consumer they are looking at a Camel ad. Lastly, in what seems to be an effort to broaden their market, the ad includes a female who references her “T-Zone”, a makeup term that is aptly reapplied to suit the producers need to sell cigarettes, but still has ties to the doctor and how he may influence women in their purchasing of cigarettes. Overall the ad uses very basic methods to appeal to those who don’t plan on further analyzing the ad and its content.
The doctor used in the Camel cigarettes ad seems to communicate a sense of comfort and lull the average consumer into a state of ease, as most people would believe that what a doctor claimed to be true was true. Visually the doctor in the ad is what one would describe as the “typical wise man”. He’s old, as notable by his old, wrinkled appearance, and his greying hair. His age would imply he’s been a doctor for a significant period of time and not a newcomer to the field, and this, would further indicate that his opinion is based on years of experience, which ads further validity to what he is saying. Comparatively, the doctor is drawn in a much more detailed manor than the other character, the woman, featured on the ad as is expected due to the fact that he is the true focal point of said ad. His wrinkles are defined and his skin has a much more natural gradient – again, adding to the overall notion that this doctor and the fact that he is an experienced doctor, are part of marketing these cigarettes. On top of visually portraying the doctor as a wise and astute man, the text bubble that accompanies the doctor refers to doctors as, “one of the busiest men in town” and “a scientist, diplomat, and friendly sympathetic human being”, each of which carry positions of influential power towards the consumer. A scientist’s opinion might be trusted when possible effects of the cigarette are being debated, a diplomat when logistics and cigarette sales are being debated, and a sympathetic human being’s when one is simply looking for a friends advice. The ad uses the doctor as a means to create someone that the typical consumer can trust, sympathize with, and believe, in doing so they also create the ideal person or people to market their Camel cigarettes.
In terms of marketing for the specific brand of cigarettes, Camels, the ad places them in a variety of eye-catching places to draw, what one would assume to be, the first glance of the consumer. One cigarette sits in the doctor’s hand, and although it isn’t marked as a Camel cigarette it is still drawn to stand off of the background. Despite the fact that the doctor is wearing a white coat, the contrast between the white cigarette and the coat is still quite high, as to further highlight the cigarette. The name “Camel” is once again mentioned in large font below the image of the doctor in the tagline, “More Doctors Smoke Camels Than Any Other Cigarette”, not only does the tagline further support the claim that doctors are being used to persuade buyers to purchase cigarettes – note the bolded “M.D.” – But it also shows that the Camels, although the product being sold, are secondary to the message. After appearing several times in the text blurb at the bottom of the ad the “Camel” cigarettes again pop up in the form of an image next to the aforesaid blurb. Yet again the cigarettes – now specially marked as Camel – stand out against the white background they are set on, despite the fact that they to are white cigarettes. As a whole, the ad highlights the cigarettes, specifically camels, as something good and worthwhile that a doctor might prescribe with his thoughtful and informed opinion.
In an effort to broaden their market the ad includes another “mini-ad” in the bottom right corner. The mini-ad features a woman holding a cigarette – that once again is highlighted from both her and her background – to market the cigarettes to other women. “Your T-Zone Will Tell You/T for Taste/T for Throat…” is how the ad goes about expanding its influence with the T-Zone referencing a commonly used term when amongst women who frequently use makeup. However, unlike the makeup T-Zone, the ad moves the T-Zone downward to include the mouth and the throat in an effort to associate women as a whole with smoking and not correct application of makeup. Although it may seem disconnected at first, the mini-ads reinforcement of the fact that Camel’s won’t affect your throat is something a doctor would back, furthering the notion that the doctor, although not highlighted in this sector of the ad, plays an integral role in why Camel’s are the best cigarettes to smoke.
This Camel cigarette ad falsely uses the pedestal many place doctors and their opinions on as a means to promote their cigarettes to a larger audience. Seeing as the ad is from 1946 it’s consequences are already known to the world we live in today, we now know that smoking causes a plethora of issues in ones later life and cigarette smoking is far from a commonly accepted pastime. In terms of the this specific Camel cigarettes ad and how it may have played a role in changing society it would seem that, due to their misperception, many people were duped not only into buying cigarettes, but specially Camel cigarettes. With this notion in mind one could also adopt the idea that those who purchased the Camel’s on the “doctors orders” may have eventually developed a mistrust in doctors due to the repercussions of smoking.
The RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company’s Camel cigarette ad uses doctors, their trustworthy nature, and their position of power amongst the average consumer to market their Camel cigarettes as the best on the market. The ad, produced in the 1940’s, uses the already widely recognized pastime of smoking cigarettes, and the extensively accepted notion that people trust doctors, particularly those with experience, to market and sell their cigarettes as the best on the coattails of a doctor-like prescription.
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