Collection: Mixed Races
Although tobacco companies had been marketing their products to specific ethnic groups for decades, it wasn’t until late in the 20th century that they began “integrationist” advertising. Previously, tobacco ads placed in African American magazines featured strictly African American models, and those in mainstream magazines featured primarily white models. However, beginning in the 1980s and gaining ground in the early 2000s, tobacco companies began featuring groups of mixed ethnicities in both minority and mainstream (“general audience”) publications.
In 1979, in an internal document researching market strategies for More cigarettes, R.J. Reynolds generalized about “the new generation of blacks,” claiming that more than previous generations, “they are more comfortable with the notion of co-existing and working side-by-side with Whites” (1). Furthermore, the document reveals RJR’s primary marketing concern at the time: “A balance must be arrived at,” the document says, “between providing depicted situations and people reflective of Black self-pride and ethnocentrism – and at the same time, confirming the extent to which Blacks have become integrated into the ‘Establishment.’”
Lorillard came to the same conclusion in 2001 for their Newport brand, which has since used models of different ethnicities in single ads. The 2001 Lorillard document makes the following conclusion: "Newport should seek to incorporate more multi-ethnic visuals in the creative mix. Smokers reacted positively to visuals that included people from mixed ethnic groups. They indicated that they have diverse circles of friends and mixed ethnicity situations are their reality. The idea of mixed ethnicity couples however, was not as readily accepted. The multi-ethnic scenarios should include settings where multi-ethnic groups would naturally come together, such as parties or group events” (2). Thus, many of the couples in recent Newport ads are of the same ethnicity, but the larger “friend” groups are mixed.
Brown & Williamson similarly moved away from segregated advertising in the 1980s for its KOOL brand, but instead of using mixed race groups in ads, it utilized jazz music and music in general as “an idea or symbol that was truly Pan-Racial… an idea that transcended the color of a smoker’s skin” (3). In one internal document, B&W’s advertising agency explains, "The print media, due to segmentation, provide the option of 'segregated' brand communication (for example, see Salem campaigns). However, this approach was avoided since it encouraged a split personality, or dual image, for the brand. It was concluded that a split personality was not viable in an image-sensitive category. Further, we believe that Black smokers increasingly will 'see through' this approach and possibly resent what essentially amounts to a 'separate but equal' dual campaign strategy” (3). In a National Sales Meeting speech, a B&W exec explained their music-oriented approach: “That’s not advertising for Blacks or Whites or Hispanics, that’s advertising for everyone who likes music. And how many people do you know who don’t like music? […] Black smokers are very important to KOOL, as you well know, and we could, like Salem, create a separate ad campaign to run in Black publications… with Black models only. But why should we? We don’t have to do that, we’re going to own the world of music, where the subject of Black and White don’t matter because the only real issue is one of pleasure. Musical enjoyment…linked to smoking satisfaction” (4).
“General Background – Black Consumer Market Demographic Trend & Marketing Implications.” RJR. 31 Dec 1979. http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/sup76b00
2. “Jacksonville and Pittsburgh one-on-one research findings/recommendations.” Lorillard. April 2001. http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/sqa42i00
3. Cunningham & Walsh Advertising Agency. “Kool: The Revitalization of an Image.” B&W. 1 July 1981. http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/leb91d00
4. Lewis, LR. “Speech for National Sales Meeting.” B&W. Oct 1981. http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/crj40f00