A cartoon, an advertising icon for Camel Cigarettes and Camel Lights, owned by the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, who also owns Winston, Salem, and Doral cigarette brands. 1970?-1997.
Joe Camel became a prolific ad for cigarettes. He was developed in the 1970's when R. J. Reynolds, faced with increasing anti-smoking sentiment and unfavorably shifting demographics, developed the Joe Camel advertising campaign in an attempt to maintain market share. Joe Camel was born as a cartoon mascot. As his name implies, he's a camel, though rather human-looking, smoking a cigarette, and looking like Joe Cool with sunglasses. He'll be playing billiards, or a saxophone, or on the beach, in a nightclub, or just hanging out while looking cool.
Mike Salisbury, the creator, once said in an interview, "I was just trying to make this stupid head have some kind of expression I could change from ad to ad, and I remembered how Sean Connery as James Bond could move his eyebrows so expressively. So I ripped off his eyes and eyebrows and Don Johnson's hair... how I personally feel about being known for this piece of crap that people think is great advertising. It's a pretty shitty piece of art."
While Joe Camel didn't appear on the cigarette cartons themselves, he was on plenty of advertisements and had a very high name-recognition. Camel is one of the most heavily advertised cigarette brands. In 1987, the campaign changed direction and started to show the Joe Camel "Smooth Character" where he was featured in popular situations like beaches and nightclubs. The FTC later alleged that these situations were designed specifically go lure younger children like 14-year-olds to smoke. In the 1990's the director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection remarked "Joe Camel has become as recognizable to kids as Mickey Mouse."
In 1991, a San Francisco activist named Janet Mangini accused the tobacco company of violating state law by unfairly marketing to minors through its Joe Camel cigarette ads. The company denied the claims, saying there was no proof.
Over the next decade, the outcry increased and evidence started piling in. In 1997 the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) released a report concluding that R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. (RJR) was deliberately targeting children in their Joe Camel ads.
A study by the American Medical Association found that over a third of our young people who try cigarettes do so because of advertising and promotion, and that Joe Camel was the overwhelming favorite among 12- to 15-year-olds. Over 80 percent of teenagers preferred the top three brands; Marlboro, Camel, or Newport cigarettes because of their heavy advertising. Children could easily recognize Joe Camel from the billboards and print ads, and according to the report, would want to imitate how cool he was, including his smoking.
Later that year, Mangini, a San Francisco family law attorney, brought suit to end the Joe Camel campaign. She became the first person to challenge the tobacco industry for targeting minors. In a unanimous decision, the California Supreme Court determined that Ms. Mangini should be permitted to prosecute her claims stating "the targeting of minors is oppressive and unscrupulous, in that it exploits minors by luring them into unhealthy and potentially life-threatening addiction before they have achieved the maturity necessary to make an informed decision whether to take up smoking despite its health risks."
The firm of Milberg, Weiss, Bershad, Hynes & Lerach co-counseled with Mangini and investigated the company and advertising agencies it hired to uncover the full picture of the Joe Camel campaign. After reviewing several million pages of documents and interviewing over 100 witnesses, a trial date was set for December 1997.
Before that time, however, San Francisco, along with Los Angeles, San Jose, and ten different counties in California all banned all Joe Camel advertising. The tobacco company relented, and pulled the entire ad campaign and settled for $10 Million US, to be paid to the cities and counties.
Of the $10 Million, $1 Million went to the all lawyers involved, and $9 Million to pay for anti-smoking advertisements and education for minors. $1.5 Million each went to San Francisco, San Jose, and Los Angeles for their anti-smoking campaigns.
An interesting side effect of this entire trial is that now plenty of formerly confidential documents from the company about selling to minors and youth are now publicly available, as a result of the settlement. There are over 4,000 documents and 80,000 pages that were used in the trial and are now public evidence. The incriminating documents are all available at http://www.library.ucsf.edu/tobacco/mangini/
The earliest documents released by the company date from the 1930's, and include a letter from William Randolph Hearst, who complained about the use of Camel advertising in the Sunday comic section of the newspaper. Hearst states, with what now seems to be prophetic insight, that advertising to children will only induce prohibition of tobacco.
In 1997, San Francisco City Attorney Louise Renne said, "''Joe Camel in California is dead. ''The death certificate is officially issued.''
In 1998, then-president Bill Clinton weighed in on his opinion: "Medical science and common sense makes it plain; teen smoking has everything to do with Joe Camel, with unscrupulous marketing campaigns that prey on the insecurities and dreams of our children... It is time to end this story once and for all."
Today, it's difficult to find ads of Joe Camel, though there's one at http://www.billboardliberation.com/actions/joecamel.pix.html
Why did the outrage die off? Even though the company was still publicly denying it through 2000, they claim they learned their lesson, and the $245 billion settlement in 1998 with several states' Attorneys General in the US was punishment enough.
Nowadays, a university professor has created Joe Chemo, what looks like Joe Camel after old age and lots of smoking. He's available at http://www.joechemo.org/