Kool Customers

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Anti-smoking activists are accusing Brown & Williamson of targeting black teenagers with a marketing campaign for Kool cigarettes that features disc jockeys, dancers, and hip-hop performers. The cigarette company, which promised not to aim promotions at minors under the agreement that settled state lawsuits against the tobacco industry, says the intended audience is "multicultural" adult smokers under the age of 30.

You could say Brown & Williamson is being disingenuous, since it's hard to imagine an ad campaign that would appeal to 19-year-olds but not to 17-year-olds. Or you could say the company's critics are being disingenuous, for precisely the same reason.

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  1. You could say Brown & Williamson is being disingenuous, since it’s hard to imagine an ad campaign that would appeal to 19-year-olds but not to 17-year-olds. Or you could say the company’s critics are being disingenuous, for precisely the same reason.

    Well, not PRECISELY the same reason. Critics are being disingenuous because it’s hard to imagine a campaign that would appeal to 17-year-olds but not to 19-year-olds.

    Pedantry aside… What is it going to take for the “anti-smoking activists” to just stop? What is victory, in their eyes?

  2. The solution is so terribly obvious: ban targeted and effective advertising! Then the companies cannot complain because it isn’t an advertising ban. And the anti-smokers can’t complain because the ads are totally ineffective at getting anybody to smoke.

    Free markets with just enough government intervention to keep the children safe. LOVE IT!

  3. If underage smoking was really such a problem, we could take the most drastic measure: make it a criminal act.

    *furrow* It is illegal already? You mean enforcing a law doesn’t stop people from pursuing happiness?

    *smile* Well, then lets make more laws, until nobody’s happy. Then no kids will smoke, for sure!

  4. Makes me think of that South Park episode where they have to modify the Christmas play so as not to offend or exclude anyone, and they keep changing it until the final product is just a bunch of kids in grey robes shuffling around the stage saying “Happy happy happy, everybody happy.”

  5. “multicultural” adult smokers

    That’s hilarious. I love it when PC jargon and corporate bafflegab collide.

    (I thought the correct marketing term was “urban” – maybe that’s no longer the case?)

  6. Of course it’s silly – the same margin by which one could say the ads “appear to be targeted to youth” is no bigger than the margin that delineates “youth,” like from 17 years old to 19 years old for example. It’s a witch hunt. “Please, federal government, don’t make us responsible for the stupid decisions we make that fuck up our lives.” Dumbasses.

  7. The tobacco companies should take a clue from Family Guy:

    “SMOKE”

  8. Heh – and the South Park episode where the peppy anti-smoking performance troupe “Butt Out” makes a visit to the 4th grade and implores the kids not to smoke so they can be “just like us!” – and of course the kids are outside trying their first cigarettes like five minutes later….

  9. So what kind of campaign would appeal to adults but NOT to teenagers?

    “I love smoking my Brown and Williamson cigarettes while I file my tax returns!”

    “Are you having a hard time finding affordable day care? Then smoke a cigarette and you’ll feel better!”

    “Cigarettes are a great fashion statement–the gray of the cigarette ashes matches the gray in my hair.”

  10. So what kind of campaign would appeal to adults but NOT to teenagers?

    “I love smoking my Brown and Williamson cigarettes while I file my tax returns!”

    “Are you having a hard time finding affordable day care? Then smoke a cigarette and you’ll feel better!”

    “Cigarettes are a great fashion statement–the gray of the cigarette ashes matches the gray in my hair.”

  11. Uh oh, three-post Jennifer is back in town.

  12. Jennifer,

    You were last night’s April Fool in
    “Now There Is No Way to Escape”
    (below)

  13. “Are you having a hard time finding affordable day care? Then smoke a cigarette and you’ll feel better!”

    Jennifer,
    Your suggested add precisely targets 15 year old girls in my little home (and quite red) county in rural California. You will be going to prison for this one, these young mothers are simply girls, without the ability to make adult decisions, got it?

  14. I honestly didn’t know that was a double-posting. I only clicked ONCE.

    JSM-
    They say that smoking decreases female fertility. If your little hometown nymphets had been smoking, maybe they wouldn’t’ve been knocked up!

    Nobody-
    Huh? What? I don’t understand your reference, but at least I can honestly say that Nobody thinks of me as a fool.

  15. From an activist’s standpoint, accusing a tobacco company like Brown & Willaimson of targeting black teenagers is like shooting fish in a barrell. I mean, what’s worse from a PR perspective, marketing to children or marketing, specificly, to black people of any age?

    Of course, it’s probably hard for a PR guy at a tobacco company to point out that black smokers disproportionatly smoke menthol cigarettes, be they Kool or Newport, and that black adults who haven’t already established brand loyalty tend to like hip-hop, hence, non-tobacco campaigns such as, “I’m lovin’ it!”

    Thank goodness I’m not a PR guy at a tobacco company.

  16. I forsee a future in which targeted marketing itself is deemed a form of discrimination. One where companies marketing a product will have one of two choices: 1) Print black-and-white advertisements consisting of nothing but the product’s ingredients and a suggested use or; 2) market each product to every possible demographic, regardless of the perceived popularity in that group.

    Hence G.I. Joe will be required to be marketed to 70+ year-old spinsters as agressively as cat food is marketed to five-year-olds, and soap-opera watchers will sit through Craftsman tool commercials during their “stories.”

    In fact, it could become a crime to NOT market cigs to the underaged!

  17. I’m reminded of the Joe Camel Brouhaha, in which the anti-smoking activists declared that the ads were obviously directed at kids, because only kids are interested in cartoon drawings.

    The people who draw political cartoons must consider voters under 18 the most important part of the electorate.

  18. Of course the critics know that what appeals to 19 year olds or even 25 year olds will appeal to 17 year olds. They just use “they’re marketing to children” as a way to get companies to reduce their advertising to pointlessness or face threats from politicians who like the grandstanding potential of cracking down on those evil tobacco companies marketing their “death sticks” to our children.

    I always ask anti-alcohol/tobacco types (lots of overlap between the two) if 16 year olds should be tried as adults, and if 16 and 17 year olds facing life in prison and/or capital punishment should be allowed to smoke. This always generates a pause as they figure out what I’m going after and try to justify their inconsistent definition of people under 18.

  19. Could it be peer pressure? What anti-smoking activitists won’t tell you, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH):

    Current cigarette smoking rates increased steadily by year of age up to age 21, from 1.7 percent at age 12 to 4.7 percent at age 13, 8.5 percent at age 14, 14.1 percent at age 15, 21.9 percent at age 16, and 28.1 percent at age 17. The rate peaked at 46.2 percent at age 21.

    By age group, the prevalence of cigarette use was 13.0 percent among 12 to 17 year olds, 40.8 percent among young adults aged 18 to 25 years, and 25.2 percent among adults aged 26 or older.

    http://www.oas.samhsa.gov/nhsda/2k2nsduh/Results/2k2Results.htm#toc

  20. Sam I Was: {Pedantry aside… What is it going to take for the “anti-smoking activists” to just stop? What is victory, in their eyes?}

    Same as the “gun safety” folks and the anti-SUV crowd: Complete prohibition.

    Why do you think we need Congress to make this kind of lawsuit illegal?

  21. I started smoking in 1991, at age 15, and that had nothing to do with advertising. I started smoking because I had friends who smoked, seemed to enjoy it, and believed it relaxed them. One day when I felt really stressed out, I asked a friend for a cigarette, and I’ve been a smoker ever since. I continued smoking because I liked it. And in my case anyway, price balanced against taste has a great deal more to do with my brand choice than advertising. I don’t think my current brand is advertised anywhere, actually.

  22. > I forsee a future in which targeted marketing itself is deemed a form of discrimination…

  23. “Pedantry aside… What is it going to take for the “anti-smoking activists” to just stop? What is victory, in their eyes?”

    1. All tobacco is declared illegal
    2. Tobacco is declared by the FDA to be an addictive substance, with no medical value. It is then declared to be “Schedule 1” drug, like Marijuana.
    3. Statements are made that “We are loosing the War On Drugs” because illedage drug usage skyrockets.
    4. Repeat steps 1 through 3 with “Junk Food”
    5. Repeat steps 1 through 3 with

  24. This can only be dealt with in one way: steel cage death match. The publicity hack versus the publicity hack.

    Of course, no children should see the match, as it would be harmful for them to witness the end results of stupid territorial pissing contests.

  25. The latest claim by the legal vultures is that it’s fraudulent to say that low-tar cigarettes are less harmful, since people who smoke them may inhale deeper or cover the filter holes with their fingers.

    Next, no doubt: It’s fraudulent for Lean Cuisine and Healthy Choice foods to claim their products are better for you, since you could just stuff yourself with more of their product and reach the same calorie and fat level as with Hungry-Man Meals.

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