Collection: It's Fun to be Fooled
In 1933, R. J. Reynolds released an ad campaign for Camel cigarettes which directly attacked Lucky Strikes’ popular “It’s Toasted” campaign. Without mentioning Lucky Strikes by name, the Camel ads insinuated that Lucky Strike’s ads “fool” consumers with “illusions,” while Camel provides its consumers with “no tricks, just costlier tobaccos” (a claim which was itself later contested by the Federal Trade Commission [FTC] as “inaccurate, false, and misleading”).
In this Camel campaign, each ad reveals a magician’s secret, describing both the illusion and the explanation behind the illusion. Then, the ad compares this magician’s illusion to a “trick of cigarette advertising.” Some of the advertising tricks that Camel mentions include “the illusion of ‘coolness’” and, alluding more directly to the “It’s Toasted” campaign, “the illusion that mildness in a cigarette comes from mysterious processes of manufacture.”
Of course, Camel’s accusation is true to a degree: cigarette advertising does employ many tricks; however, this campaign runs the risk of bringing Camels’ own tricks out from behind the curtain. Indeed, this is a case of “the pot calling the kettle black.” Over the next decade and beyond, the FTC charged the majority of popular cigarette makers with cease-and-desist orders for false and misleading advertising, including R.J. Reynolds. By 1942, the FTC cited a slurry of Camel’s claims as “inaccurate, false, and misleading,” including the following: “smoking of Camels aid digestion, fortifies good health, and has been discovered by a famous research laboratory to restore body energy, […] to keep in athletic condition one should smoke as many Camels as he likes, that Camels helped a racing car driver win a race and golf champion a grueling contest, that Camels would not shorten the wind or irritate the throat but would protect against nerve strain, and asserted that only the choicest tobaccos were used to make Camels” (1). The latter is the most interesting in this case, when the FTC labels false the very claim Camel had boasted as containing “no tricks.”
“FTC complaint hits cigarette claims” 8 Aug 1942. The New York Times