Date: 1951
Brand: Camel
Manufacturer: R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company
Campaign: Singers & Performers
Theme: For your Throat
Keywords: Male, Singer, Opera, Military, Mario Lanza
Quote: I can't afford to take chances with my voice. I smoke Camels! They suit my throat and taste to a 'T'!

Comment: This comic-style advertisement features an endorsement from operatic tenor and Hollywood actor Mario Lanza (1921-1959). Born in the United States to Italian immigrant parents, he began his singing career at the age of 16 in local productions for the Philadelphia YMCA Opera Company. Though Lanza was a beautiful singer, the ad exaggerates his other faculties; The ad refers to Lanza as an army vet, when in actuality he did not fight on the line, but instead performed at various army bases during WWII. Additionally, the ad portrays Lanza unclothed save for a pair of briefs. He shows off his muscular build, and the copy text explains that he has an imposing physique because he was a weight lifter and a high school athlete in his early years. This portrayal of Lanza as athletic is quite the misrepresentation, as Lanza suffered from excessive and uncontrollable weight gain and overeating throughout his career, often times enraging his costume designers when the buttons of his costume wouldn t fasten. Clearly, Camel wanted to associate its product with the young singer to emphasize the non-irritating aspects it claimed for Camels, but it wanted to take this a step further in making them seem healthy. Lanza also struggled with alcoholism and bankruptcy due to lavish spending habits, and his health declined rapidly. He was diagnosed with high blood pressure as well as phlebitis, an inflammation caused by a blood clot. He came down with double pneumonia after suffering from a minor heart attack, and passed away soon after from a pulmonary embolism, a blockage of the main artery of the lung, while undergoing a controversial weight loss program which required prolonged periods of sedation. His wife, Betty Lanza, passed away five months later at the age of 37 from what was described as a respiratory ailment.

Singers & Performers

In the 1920s, tobacco companies began enlisting hundreds of celebrities to endorse their products. In these advertisements, movie stars, famous singers, athletes, and even socialites graced the pages of popular magazines, editorials, and newspapers printed across the country. The 1920s and 1930s were the heyday of celebrity endorsement, with celebrities hawking everything from cigarettes to soap, from pantyhose to cars. However, it seems that no company was as prolific in its celebrity ad copy as Lucky Strike.

Singers were vital components of celebrity testimonial campaigns for cigarette companies; the emphasis on healthy, clear voices in the singers line of work was an ideal avenue for portraying cigarettes as healthful, rather than harmful. The concept was that if a famous singer entrusted her voice and throat her source of revenue to a cigarette brand, then it must not be so bad! If it s good enough for Frank Sinatra, it s good enough for me, a consumer might decide. It is ironic, of course, that these ads also worked to reveal the possible side effects of smoking by providing a problem (irritated throats, for example) and a solution (smoke our brand.) Still, this problem-solution advertising was very popular at the time, and worked to position one brand as the exception to the problem rule or as the least problematic of all cigarette brands. It also served to trivialize health side effects of smoking, masking more serious side effects in the process.

Stars were also used to attract a younger crowd. Stars were glamorous and represented a walk of life attractive to consumers who were already invested in tabloids and the lives of the show business elite. It wasn t until 1964 that tobacco companies were banned from using testimonials from athletes, entertainers, and other famous personalities who might be appealing to consumers under 21 years of age.

   →  View Larger Image