July 2, 2011
Got your attention?
For those who don’t know, when The Flintstones was first broadcast in 1960 it was a prime-time show aimed at adults, like The Simpsons is today. As was typical of the time, the show had one main sponsor and the characters would plug the sponsor’s product, in this case Winston cigarettes.
While you could argue that it was an adult show so the ads were not aimed at children, the fact remains that children were a huge target of cigarette ads and using cartoon characters to push cigarettes was a broadside fired squarely at kids.
Cartoons were not the only children’s medium used to sell tobacco to kids. Comics were big areas of interest to Big Tobacco.
Baseball, a sports hero, and a comic strip. That pitch is aimed straight at the meaty part of the plate. I find that reprehensible, though I grudgingly admit the genius of that ad. Read it again but pay attention to what it doesn’t say, only what it implies. Nowhere does it say that smoking Camels made Joe DiMaggio a super athlete, but look at the actual photograph, with Joe talking about how he has smoked them for eight years, with his MVP award mentioned very conspicuously right below the smoking cigarette. What conclusion is a young kid reading a comic book supposed to reach? And notice the big “5 extra smokes in every pack.” You must get five more cigarettes in each pack, right? No, not really, read the fine print. And what kid does that?
What about the claim of 28% less nicotine? According to that ad, it is the smoke that contains less nicotine! That’s the part you exhale, not inhale. “Well, I’m no scientist, but I know” that claim says nothing about the nicotine in the cigarette itself and nothing about what you are inhaling.
Camels strike again. A comic, a test pilot, a fighter plane, and a woman. Camel pulled out all the stops for this one, and tops it all off with the implied approval of the armed forces.
Did you catch the blatant sexism too? “WHAT? A woman flying a Hellcat fighter?” I know these have to be judged by the standards of the era, but there is a stunning lack of subtlety in these ads.
Lack of subtlety? Look at this:
If you can’t read the teeny tiny disclaimer at the bottom, it says “We do not say that smoking Luckies reduces flesh. we do say when tempted to overindulge, ‘Reach for a Lucky instead.'” No, they don’t say it, but “face the facts!” In all but words, that is what the ad is saying.
I’ll end this as I began, with a pair of popular celebrities shilling smokes. These two were the focus of a Saturday Comics several weeks ago.