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Media and Communications

The History of Cartoon Cigarette Advertising

The History of Cartoon Cigarette Advertising


There’s some big changes happening to
YouTube and it could jeopardize thousands of channels! Doesn’t this
happen like every single week? This time it’s different because it could
potentially impact my channel so I actually care now. Basically YouTube is
going to be rolling out in a few months a separate kid-friendly part of their
site where videos that are designated by the creator to be for an audience of 13
and under children or videos that are scanned by the algorithm and determined
to be child-friendly content will be relegated to this kind of kid YouTube
where personalized ads are stripped and comments and ratings are disabled. A
robot could easily scan my channel and determine “it’s kid-friendly” because all
the thumbnails are bright colored cartoons. My problem is I don’t want
my videos only being distributed to an audience of children 13 and under
because I would like to talk about adult animation, the history of adult animation on
this channel. So in the interest of keeping my channel from being flagged as
a total kids Channel I wanted to talk about something slightly adult – the
history that cartoons have played in advertising cigarettes throughout the
years. Now as a disclaimer I am NOT a smoker I have never been a smoker I will
never be a smoker and I think smoking is a disgusting habit and if you smoke you
should quit and all my friends and family that goes double because I love
you and I want you to live forever but you know what we all have our vices so
grab yourself your own personal favorite vice be it a snack or a drink of choice
get comfortable and get ready to watch some controversial cartoons I originally intended to make this video
just about Joe Camel to keep the video focused on one mascot but he never
actually appeared in anything animated just in print advertisements for legal
reasons we’ll talk about later so we’ll get back to Joe Camel, but let’s also
talk about some other cartoons and mascots used to push puffing on
cigarettes. Advertising of all kinds has a long history of using Illustrated work
to sell products but the first example I could find of a really cartoony
character versus a stylized illustration of a person was this British ad for
Saint Dunstan’s featuring a cartoony child smoking a comically huge cigarette.
Sometime between then and the early 30s companies decided to go full cartoon and
made comic strips featuring various characters and mascots advertising the
benefits of their cigarettes the three main companies responsible
for these comics were Doral, Kool and Camel and they all seem to be published
around 1933. Interestingly Camel’s comics didn’t feature any camels at all – this
comic’s story is about the guy getting fooled by a magic trick, learning how it
works, and then he talks about the “facts” about Camels implying that other
brands are using trickery in that camels are the no BS brand of mild high-quality
cigarette. It also shows you how to do a quote-unquote magic trick, conveniently
this trick involves getting you to purchase a pack of Camel cigarettes.
Doral’s ads all feature the pack of cigarettes dancing around various people
singing “taste me, taste me” – interestingly they never used the more accurate but
perhaps more gross “smoke me.” The cutest and funniest comics and therefore the
most unsettling to me were made by Kool introducing their penguin mascot Willy
and his girlfriend Millie you could even order the pair of penguins on adorable
salt and pepper shakers. These comics are extra funny because they present smoking
Kool cigarettes as a cure for sneezing and coughing which, I’m no doctor but I’m
pretty sure that’s not how cigarettes work. Kool centered most of its marketing
around its cool sensation from the menthol in their cigarettes,
hence the penguin mascot. Keeping things Kool, in 1935 perhaps the most
interesting advertisement I ran across was produced. This six minute and changed
advertisement for Kool cigarettes was directed by Fleischer studios animator
John Walworth – you may be familiar with Fleischer studios’ other productions like
Betty Boop or Popeye. This cartoon is insane – it has all the retro feel of any
cutesy old style cartoon but with a full several minute scene
showing the manufacturing process of cigarettes using these penguins – and
perhaps the funniest thing that I found which was giving the Statue of Liberty a
cigarette and then having her light it with the torch. I genuinely burst out
laughing the first time I saw this ’cause it’s just really out there and something
you would never see today. This whole cartoon is so good I’m probably
gonna use this as b-roll for the rest of the video, but I urge you to check out
the full video if you’re as interested in weird old cartoons as I am. Kool
carried on advertising their cigarettes as the cool refreshing choice in
posters and then further TV advertisements through the late 50s but
the little penguin left a lasting impact. Willie wearing a top hat and monocle was
actually the inspiration for Batman’s Penguin character. His success as a
mascot also surely inspired other cigarette companies to use cartoons in
their TV advertising. In the late 50s and early 60s we see animated cigarette ads
from Marlboro, Camel – again without any camels – and a rather uncomfortable ad for
Consulate cigarettes where a guy gets his lung strength back from, you guessed
it, smoking – and then beats up a bunch of Native Americans to win his very jiggly
gal’s heart. Most notably in the 60s was a series of advertisements from Winston
cigarettes featuring The Flintstones these you’ve probably seen before –
they’re fairly well known nowadays for being a shocking use of cartoons to
advertise smoking, though I think it’s a little bit unfair to call it shocking
since it’s also fairly well known that the Flintstones was at first intended to
be a sitcom for a more adult audience modeled after the Honeymooners. The
Flintstones was even the first TV couple to be depicted sharing a bed – scandalous
and very adult for the times. Despite these cigarette commercials and the
attempt to market the show for adults later the Flintstones became known as
more of a family or kids show and they later became salespeople for kids
vitamins, cereal, and grape juice. It was all fun and games for cartoons and
cigarettes through the 60s though there was some pushback in the form of
anti-smoking cartoons, perhaps most notably a PSA put out in 1964 by the
American Cancer Society called “The Huffless Pufless Dragon” showing the
negative impact smoking can have. [Dragon]: You can’t fight you’re out of breath your lungs
are out, you’re through! that’s what smokin’ll do. [Narrator]: the PSA was
produced by animator and director Ernest Pintof most known for his Oscar
award-winning abstract short The Critic featuring Mel Brooks. This public
pushback continued for many years in America until finally the US government
decided to step in. In 1970 President Richard Nixon signed the Public Health
Cigarette-Smoking Act which banned all cigarette advertisements from television
and radio, this didn’t ban ads for smokeless tobacco products which weren’t
banned until 1986 but the tobacco industry was really hit
where it hurt – right in their wallets. Undeterred, companies found ways to
implement bolder marketing strategies in print advertisements and on
billboards, which is where our old friend Joe comes in. Joe Camel was created in
1974 by Nicholas Price, a British artist who I couldn’t find any details about
online. The first Joe was made for a French ad campaign for Camel. Price’s
inspiration was the Camel logo named Old Joe and, can I just say it’s kind of
shocking to me just how long it took Camel to use a camel mascot in its ads?
Anyway, the Joe that we know wouldn’t hit the United States until 1988. The
parent company of Camel cigarettes RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company hired ad agency
Trone advertising to create a campaign for the 75th anniversary of Camel
cigarettes. They proposed a design featuring the camel from the earlier
French ad, it got the green light and a design with Joe’s face rolled out for
the anniversary with the phrase “75 years and still smokin’.” This design and all
the subsequent 75th anniversary designs were a huge hit and Joe became the face
of the brand with his own slogan, “Smooth Character.” Joe was featured looking cool,
gambling, smoking, wooing women, relaxing on the beach you name it I couldn’t find
all the illustrators behind some of this amazingly 90s artwork but one artist I was able to find is named Jerry LoFaro who designed not only a lot of Joe
Camel artwork in the 90s but is responsible for a lot of those super
sick animal t-shirts everyone had back in the day – my boyfriend loves this stuff
and I felt compelled to get him a new dinosaur shirt and I got myself this
incredible Polar Bear t-shirt it’s perfect because it’s a blend of funky
90s animal art shirts and Lisa Frank it’s just – *chef’s kiss* Interestingly, he also did
some work for Cheetos just to make this transition from my Cheetos video to this
one a little extra smooth. So needless to say this cool camel was a huge hit. His
face was plastered on billboards and magazines and all over the packaging.
Camel even had a promotional Camel Cash campaign where you would get Camel Cash “C Note” currency inside select packs of
cigarettes which you could then redeem for cool Joe Camel merch. As a lover of
bizarre cartoon stuff I kind of want some of these goofy things and the Kool
penguin salt shakers, is that bad? In any event Joe was super popular. Actually, he
was a little too popular. In 1991 one parent was taken aback by just how
popular Joe and as a result smoking had become among children when he was told
by his two-year-old son “daddy, when I grew up I want to be a man – I want to
drive fast cars, and I want to smoke cigarettes.” For dramatic effect the kid
was apparently also holding a straw and pretending to smoke it. Thoroughly
disturbed, his father Dr. Paul Fischer, a former teacher at the Medical College of
Georgia, decided to conduct a simple study to find out just how prevalent
this awareness of smoking was among very young children. In his study of 229
children from ages 3 to 6 Fischer found that Joe Camel depicted to the children
as just a camel, not smoking, was more recognizable in name to the children
than Bugs Bunny or Mickey Mouse, and 30% of three-year-olds and a staggering 91%
of six-year-olds were able to match Joe Camel with a cigarette – the same
percentage who were able to match Mickey Mouse with Disney Channel. Another study
conducted by University of Massachusetts researcher Joseph de Franza on brand
preferences among underage smokers found that adolescents were 10 times as likely
to smoke camels than adults – even more damning the percentage of adolescents
smoking camels before 1988 was 1% but after the introduction of Joe Camel 33
percent of the students chose Camel as their preferred smokes. Camel’s market
share during this time among smokers ages 12 to 18 had tripled after Joe
Camel hit the scene, to 13%, and this jump in sales among the youth was coined
“the Camel hump.” Public outcry hit a fever pitch as concerned parents felt that
children were being deliberately targeted with the Joe Camel character and
advertising campaigns. R.J. Reynolds was quick to claim that the ads were
intended for adults only and that they weren’t targeting youth, though internal
memos from the 60s suggest that reeling in young smokers to hook them at
a young age and keep them throughout their life was definitely a strategy
that tobacco companies sought after. Despite their best efforts to keep their
cash Camel afloat, a second major blow to tobacco companies came in 1998. The
Master Settlement Agreement, the result of civil litigation from 46 US states in
Washington DC against major tobacco companies, outright banned advertisements
on public transit, billboards, paid brand product placement, cartoons, brand
sponsorships of sports events or concerts and advertising targeting
anyone under the age of 18. This Agreement effectively was the end of Joe
Camel and Camel quickly switched back to its more neutral packaging with the
more lifelike Camel logo and this change was also reflected in its Camel Cash
campaign. So, cartoons were prevented from advertising tobacco products forever.
Well, similar prohibitions haven’t yet been put in place for ecigs but I think
they’re gonna ban e-cigs before they ban the cartoon advertising on e-cigs by the
sounds of it, and also not regulated are treats of the “magical” or “medical” herbal
variety. Some studies show that the use of cartoons in advertisements increases
brand recognition and makes non users more likely to use for the first time. I
had to do a little self-reflection when making this video since I myself have
been commissioned in the past to create cartoon artwork for magical brownie
types of things not giving it much thought other than “well, it’s a
consistently paying good client” and “I gotta pay rent” and saying to myself “well,
kids can’t buy these products anyway,” but knowing what I know now about how
insidious this cartoon usage in advertisements can be, I’m going to have
to start turning these types of clients away. I see parallels between this debate
about using cartoons in ads and the debate brewing around YouTube’s policy
changes. On one hand, having a separate place for our children under 13 to watch
videos that isn’t plagued with disturbing content that stops gathering
personalized ad data on child viewers is a great idea on paper, in practice, with
regards to the types of content that I want to make, cartoons and discussions
about cartoons can be for all age groups and I’d like to discuss more adult
animation on this channel as well. I don’t want a five-year-old seeing videos
like this about smoking cigarettes or a future video where I talk about, I don’t
know, Fritz the Cat, and the idea that that could be a possibility just because
my thumbnails to a robot look like all child friendly videos? It’s kind of
unsettling to me. In short, will these regulations actually help children? Is
labeling all use of cartoon imagery “for kids” always appropriate? It’s easy for a
lot of people to say that banning cartoon mascots is just more government
over-regulation or that parents should be deciding how their children interact
with the world and products that they consume, and certainly it seems that
there isn’t a similar uproar about the use of bright cartoony artwork or
straight up cartoons used on craft beer labels which is a similarly adult product
that can ruin lives just as well as cigarettes can – it is hard to deny the
facts that children are drawn to bright colors and big eyed interesting-looking
cartoon characters, even if those characters are doing adult things like
Joe Camel. There’s even a push to ban mascots from being used to sell food
products, and as fun as I personally find food and cereal mascots to be, people
wanting a ban aren’t without any justification. Will all use of cartoons
be forever associated with being “for kids”, being “child-friendly”, and when did
this idea even start? Maybe that’s a video for another day – but what impact
will this have on everything from the products we buy to the YouTube videos
that we watch in the future? I guess time will tell, but all I know is that cartoon imagery is a lot more powerful than we realize,
especially when used to advertise products that are dangerous and I think
it’s important to be aware of that visual power that you hold over a
younger audience especially if you love or make cartoons as a grown up like me.
Because these cute and cool characters really can do some damage if used for
evil. So this video was a little bit more of a downer than the last time I did a
Mascot Snapshot video but what can I say it’s a little bit more of a downer topic,
smoking advertised to kids. But what do you guys think? Where do you think we
should draw the line when it comes to advertising these adult products – do you
think we should ban all colorful and cartoony things on craft beer labels and
e-cig (e-juice) labels – we’ll probably have e-cigs banned before the labels get banned at this
rate, but what do you guys think? Do you think there’s a there’s a line where
illustration becomes too cartoony or too child-friendly?
What is that line? How do we determine that line, where do you think we should
draw that line as consumers and as people who care about the well-being of
children? Leave your thoughts in the comments below, and if you’d like to see
more content like this you can subscribe to this channel, I also draw all kinds of
artwork and put it on all my social media at the links in the description
below. Thank you guys again for watching and have a fantastic day. you

2 thoughts on “The History of Cartoon Cigarette Advertising

  1. really interesting to hear the history of all this laid out in once place– i only knew bits and pieces before 🙂

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