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Camel Snus vs. the NYC smoking ban

Here’s an unusual current-events-oriented print ad. On this crisp spring morning that marks the first day of the smoking ban in New York City parks, a newspaper ad for Camel Snus declares, “Reclaim the world’s greatest city.” The point of the ad is that can’t light up in Central Park any more—but you can still suck on a pouch of moist tobacco nestled under your tongue. Excuse me, I think I’m gonna barf.

Here’s the ad:

Camel Snus NYC Ad

The tagline is “Break free.” I spotted this ad in today’s Wall Street Journal; it’s running in other newspapers too.

Tobacco companies have a weird relationship with print, one of the few places they’re not legally prohibited from advertising in the United States. R. J. Reynolds (which markets the Camel brand) and Phillp Morris (part of Altria) used to be major advertisers in consumer pubs; you’d see the Marlboro Man in every issue of Time and Newsweek. But by 2008, the 2 big companies had given up on print, only to return in 2009 with smokeless tobacco products like Snus. Smaller tobacco companies continued to advertise in print; American Spirit (Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company) was a popular magazine advertiser even after RJR and Altria gave up.

Tobacco advertising is probably the most researched kind of marketing, because of public health consequences. It’s a fascinating business. Tobacco pushers solved the problem of customer retention by selling a physically addictive product. But public sentiment—backed by powerful health insurance companies, government organizations, and doctors—is strongly opposed to tobacco. Many of the tobacco companies’ most loyal customers hate the product so much they tell others (especially young people) not to use it. Also, tobacco users die early, which hurts the bottom line.

The most eye-catching thing about this Snus ad is the box at the bottom, where 65-point type warns the customer that using the product will lead to facial disfigurement. Good times, right?

* * * *

Who’s responsible for this campaign?

I’m not sure, but as of 2009 the Snus account was handled by Quaker City Mercantile. In the U.S., ad firms rarely talk about tobacco accounts in the trade press, nor do they submit tobacco work for awards. I’ve never met a copywriter or art director who has bragged about working on a tobacco account.

Who signed off on it?

I’m couldn’t find the name of any Snus brand manager or marketing director, so lets go with RJR CEO Daniel Delen, since he’s quoted in a story about the campaign in the Wall Street Journal today.

— By Daryl Lang. Filed under Advertising


  1. Jamie Robison says:

    I understand this article is a bit old but I couldn’t help but comment.

    “The most eye-catching thing about this Snus ad is the box at the bottom, where 65-point type warns the customer that using the product will lead to facial disfigurement. Good times, right?”

    You really have no idea what you are talking about do you? Have you personally read any medical journals or research surrounding this class of smokeless tobacco products or are you just spouting a combination of personal opinion mixed with unrelated research of completely different products like dip and chewing tobacco?

    Do a bit of research yourself and you will find out the introduction of snus to the American smoker is possibly the best thing that has happened for them in decades. While it is not true Swedish snus, it is a good copy. Swedish snus has zero, i repeat zero, health risks. The warning at the bottom is left over from old dip and chewing tobacco research.

    • Jamie Robison says:

      If you have a smoker in your life, family, friend, anyone you care about, it would do you well to look into the truth behind real snus…. it could save their lives.

    • Daryl Lang says:

      Jamie, do you work for the tobacco industry?

  2. Ryan Thomas says:

    Daryl, that is awfully dismissive of you. Jamie does in fact have his facts correct as Sweden is one of the most agressive anti-smoking countries and they have well documented research on the positive benefits of switching to snus products.

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