Cartoons in cigarette advertisements have been a no-no since 1998, and the First District of Illinois Court of Appeals has ruled that R.J. Reynolds Tobacco crossed that line with its “Camel Farm” ad supporting independent rock groups in Rolling Stone’s 40th anniversary issue in November 2007.
The court found that the “The Farm Free Range Music” advertising spread with its depictions of television, radios, and speakers seemingly sprouting from the ground was in violation of a settlement agreement that prohibits the company from using images of “objects” with “unnatural” abilities in advertisements.
Those who have been around for a while may remember Joe Camel, the cartoon that carried the company’s cigarette ads for many years.
“[T]he images of radios, speakers and a television, which have a unifying trait of emitting sound, are also ‘unnatural,’” wrote Judge David Sterba. “In the advertisement, radios, speakers and a television are each placed on a plant stem to resemble flowers and to be representatives of seedlings rising from the underground.”
When the ad was first released, it came under heavy fire from anti-smoking groups. According to The New York Times, Matthew L. Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said, “This is one great big cigarette ad” and averred that the Rolling Stone content was “indistinguishable from the Camel ad.”
In fact, according to DrugFree.org, nine states’ Attorneys General have sued the tobacco company over the ads. As of this writing, R.J. Reynolds has reached settlements with Connecticut and Maryland (agreeing to pay $150,000 to each), lost in California without having to pay sanctions, lost in Washington, and won in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Maine (PDF).
FYI, the appellate court in Illinois also refused to award sanctions.
Which side do you think is right?