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Camel Crud

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A Camel's view on life.

Quartet Camel ad thumbnail Beach Party Camel ad thumbnail  Rear End Camel ad thumbnail  Classic Pack Camel pack thunbnail Smoke Ring Camel's smoke ring ad thumbnail Old Joe Camel's Old Joe



Joe Camel plods on

 IfCamel and attractive model this were the type of image used by R.J.Reynolds to promote Camel cigarettes then it would be very obvious that they were attempting to associate attractiveness and sexuality with their cigarette brand. However, they are much more subtle and manipulative as the next few ads indicate.

Click for a larger, floating, image. The classic Camel cigarette packTo tobacco ad watchers it may seem as if R.J.Reynolds and their advertising agencies have become reformed characters in recent years?  Consumer pressure has led to the banishment of Smooth Joe from magazines and billboards. But note that Joe was simply carrying on a tradition that stretches far back into tobacco history and Camel mythology.  Sex sells, or at least gets attention, especially when the consumer does not realize there is a sexual message in the ads they cursorily pass over when reading or driving past billboards along the freeway.

There is a link to some of this historical information at the end of this page. But see below for what has been happening over the past year or so.

Click for a larger, floating, image. The classic Camel cigarette packWhen Old Joe emerged as a Smooth Character, along with the Hard Pack, to conquer the minds of potential smokers, he had merely undergone one of the many metamorphoses associated with Camel advertising. Like Dr. Who the essential spirit of Joe has managed yet another metamorphosis, without losing any of his manipulative characteristics. Nor have the ad agencies responsible for producing Camel ads lost their ability to incorporate semi-subliminal images into what seems otherwise relatively innocuous ads.  But..........

Consider carefully the ad illustrated below. It is a recent ad for Camel cigarettes. What do you make of it? 

 First consider the bottom smoke ring. It has a Camel's smoke ring ad with various embedded elements.curl of smoke arising from the main ring. Just behind it is a rather startled Muppet type face ( you will need to find an original copy of the ad to detect this as I have not yet been able to adequately reproduce the subtlety of this miniature piece of art on screen).  However take note that the face is looking downwards towards the neck of the smoker. Is that a banana shape on his neck or is it a phallic shape (or just an odd interpretation of the reflection of light on the model's neck)?

If you are overly inhibited or not accustomed to analysing adverts in detail you might not wish to acknowledge that it is, indeed,  a phallic shape.  But, is this all that is left of Old Joe and his attempts to associate Camel cigarette smoking with sexual activity and related interests and values?    Bear in mind, as the intro page noted, first appearances don't count on these pages. There is more to this ad than initially meets the eye. 

Look now at the second smoke ring (actual size) in the illustration on the right. Although it might seem to be simply one stage inCamel with smoker blowing what appear to be smoke rings the conversion from a straightforward smoke ring into the Camel logo, it is not. Look a bit more carefully. It has a definite shape. What could it remind you of? Bear in mind sex has always been associated with Camel cigarettes. Bear also in mind the phallic shape around the young mans neck and the line of sight of the Muppet type face intended to draw the viewers gaze in that direction. 

The answer to the question 'What does the shape remind one of? could be related to what the young man might use of if his libido were aroused - and if he were sensible enough to practice safe sex. Think of a contraceptive and then look at the smoke ring again. The Animated condom.similarity to a partially unrolled contraceptive, as with the representations of other aspects of the Camel ads and packaging and their relationship with sexual connotations, is too close to be accidental. What is on the young man's mind now seems clear - it is sex. Check this theory out with other ads in this series and other Camel ads, some of which are analysed below.

The spirit of Old Joe's lives on, even if many of R.J.Reynolds customers  d are now six feet under.

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The Camel Quartet

Click for a larger, floating, image. One of seven special Camel cigarette packsClick for a larger, floating, image. Another of the seven special Camel cigarette packs Here we have a pair of specially commissioned Camel packs. They belong �o a set of seven, four of Link to author's wanted page.which are illustrated in this section (can readers help the author to obtain copies of the other Click for a larger, floating, image. Advert illustrating four of the seven special Camel cigarette packs three?). 

From top to bottom (no pun intended) one can note that the 'hidden' sexual theme associated with Camel cigarettes is still apparent.

The two packs illustrated above appear to be simple variations on the standard Camel pack.   This has been reputed to contain a manikin with an erection and various other images.  For the manikin, see the Camel's foreleg. This assertion has been discounted a number of times The Camel from the Camel R.J.Reynolds and others associated with the company. However, it is rather strange that this figure can still be discerned after many years of pack alterations. If it was not intended to be there, and some people find it offensive, then it need not be there. In fact if one views the book Camel cigarette collectibles by Douglas Congdon-Martin, the figure that isn't supposed to exist has become slightly more obvious over the years, rather than less so. On the right is the Camel Filters Hard Pack (as sold in Mexico, 2000). Note that the colouring is markedly different from the illustration on the left (and other versions of the cigarette pack). Yet all show, to some degree or other the manikin and his 'penis'. The pack, in fact, highlights the appendage against a lighter background.

Additionally, the author has an ad produced around the same time Camel cigarettes first appeared. This also would seem to contain embedded elements. The brand is not Camel but the use of the same type of embedding technique early this century would indicate general knowledge within ad companies producing ads for the tobacco industry at this time. Additionally one might note that the American artist Winslow Homer was rather renowned for embedding images in his work (see Winston Homer, the Obtuse Bard). His work may have been the inspiration for some interesting ads during this early period of cigarette advertising.

On the assumption that once is chance, twice is coincidence, three examples would tend to indicate a calculated intention, doubts about the existence of the manikin would quickly recede into the sands of the desert if other examples of early Camel ads with embedded elements could be unearthed. More will be revealed in Sexy, Subliminal and Deadly? The psychology of manipulative advertising (in preparation). If you fancy yourself as a detective, start with the knowledge that the ad referred to can be found in a book currently in print.

The failure to see the demise of the ambiguous manikin is not surprising if its presenceCover of Congdon-Martin's book on Camel collectibles on Camel packs is related to a theme that is capable of influencing some viewers. What this theme might be becomes clearly apparent after one has viewed a number of additional special packs.

Click for a larger, floating, image. Another of the seven special Camel cigarette packs The third pack shows the Camel logo made up from rather fluffy clouds. Embedded in the clouds are the letters S E X.

The fourth pack is the most interesting from the point of view of embedded sexual imagery in ads and most evidently reveals a sexual theme.  Whatever the origin of the embedded manikin in the 1920's, this ads embedded imagery indicates that the sexual theme is now clearly manipulated by RJR's advertising agencies.

Click for a larger, floating, image. Another of the seven special Camel cigarette packsThis fourth ad seemingly shows a simple variation on the Camel scene. But look carefully. It seems to be in a rictus of excitement - and again this is probably no accident.

Take a closer look at this pack and note the separate elements of the overall scene.  It is composed of a stretch of beach, some sea and an inland lagoon, complete with sandbank. Overall, the combination of elements overtly offer an impression of the Camel logo. Closer analysis reveals that this Camel logo is different is the shape presented by the sandbank. The sandbank is clearly phallic in shape but then, so what! Anything longer than it is wide can be construed as a phallic shape.

But note that in this instance, this is intended to be perceived as a phallic shape. There is additional information in the ad dedicated to ensuring that the shape is perceived asstartled figure (animation) phallic. At the tip of the sandbank one can find shapes indicative of the letters s e and x.  'Recognition' of such 'letters' would give the pack and logo a sexualized meaning and encourage sexual connotations to be associated with other aspects of the pack. Additonally, any viewer who perceived (preconsciously) the shape and the letters would most likely respond by associating Camel cigarettes with sexuality and forming a memory trace combining the two different elements of Camel cigarettes/sexuality.. 

To pursue this sexualized interpretation further.  Note that the phallic shape is probably intended to be perceived as 'penetrating' the camel.  The construction is not anatomically correct and, so far as the author is aware, camels are not renowned for having oral sex.  But, presumably, the ad might have been deemed somewhat pornographic and the message obvious if 'penetration' had occur normally from the rear. However, the 'rictus of excitement' helps give the game away.

One wonders what the other special packs contained. Incidentally, if the author's interpretation of these packs is correct then one can expect the others in the series to contain similar ambiguous and sexualized elements. Check out collectors of Camel memorabilia for the answer.

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  Rearing to go

Camel's Rear End: Camel AdThe caption in many ads, as in this case, is often used to help direct attention to where the lettering can be found.  And this is a typical Camel ad: the sexual message is seemingly presented in the 'classic mode' i.e. ambiguous lettering embedded in the hair of the camel. However, such embedding is difficult to capture on screen and the ambiguous nature of the artistic elements means that interpretation may be erroneous.    Most companies would be given the benefit of the doubt where embedded lettering were seemingly indentified. However, with adverts for Camel cigarettes one can reasonably assume that what one perceives has primarily been cued by aspects of the ad, rather than being the outcome of projection. {sorry,the large version of this ad has become mislaid at present but see below for more obvious Camel ads)

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The Monster Beach Party

Click for a larger, floating, image. The Camel Beach Party ad, two page spread.  Here is a recent Camel ad featuring the Click for a larger, floating, image. The Camel Beach Party ad, single page version. 'masturbating' man noted in the introductory quiz. It was produced as a two page spread and also as a single page ad. The young man is situated just to the left of the foremost police officer. In addition to his masturbation there are additional sexual elements in the double page spead.masturbating young man in water There is a second police officer to the right of the ad and alongside him is a young woman. She has apparently put his hand on her right thigh.  The 'choreography' or body postures of the police officer and the young woman does not indicate that his hand got there accidentally whilst he was trying to prevent her moving forward.

The monster is, in most respects, simply one distraction among many as the ad is very 'busy'. But the area underneath the monster's left leg contains some unusual shapes. These can be interpreted as forming the letters s e and x, as might be expected. In addition, look at the white 'splash' underneath the monster's left leg.  The 'faces' in the sea.  The 'splash' can be interpreted either as one icy 'face', or two icy 'faces' - take your pick. The rollover depicts the 'couple', clicking on the rollover will show the single 'face'. If the image is interpreted as two faces, then the 'icy couple' seem to be kissing. Even though there are two possible interpretations of this image only one will be 'seen' at any one time. See the Psychology and Imagine pages for explanations of this phenomenon, typical of many visual illusions.

The 'kiss' could be RJR's ad agency acknowledging that cigarettes offer 'The Kiss of Death'. Paradoxical though it may seem, it is desirable for tobacco companies to trigger fear and anxiety in their customers, so long as this is done covertly (clear and unambiguous fear messages reduce smoking levels). When covert images are used to trigger fear and anxiety this is likely to be responded to by every smoker who has an unacknowledged fear that they may be among the unfortunate one in three smokers who will suffer from an untimely end or years of illness. Therefore many cigarette ads, when consciously appraised, can be seen, rather paradoxically, to do their best to trigger this fear, as in this ad.

The anxiety produced by such images is not, of course, counterproductive where the tobacco companies are concerned.   As the imagery triggering such anxiety is semi-subliminal, the anxiety would not be attributed by viewers to viewing the ad. The imagery, after all, would not be consciously noted.   The emotional response might also be consciously overlooked. But irrespective of how the smoker is influenced, the only factor that matters is that the smoker reaches for another cigarette. This would give them temporary relief or control of anxiety. This is just what the tobacco companies want and they sell more cigarettes.

To some extent one might also acknowledge that the warnings on tobacco packets fulfil the same anxiety arousing function for addicted smokers. Less attention is paid to it than any other aspect of an ad, indicating, amonst other factors, a strong tendency to avoid unpleasant message.

Ads that are designed to trigger anxiety give a clear indication of the tobacco companies view of their customers. Their customers are simply 'cannon fodder'. They are customers to be used whilst they are capable of smoking and to be replaced with vulnerable young kids when they suffer their almost inevitable spiral into ill health and an early death.

Despite its anxiety laden component, this Camel ad, as with many others, also offers different, yet equally meaningful, messages to different sets of viewers.   Whilst raising anxiety in some viewers, the lettering, masturbation and other 'sexual' behaviour in the ad was part of a strategy to foster and maintain 'mental links' between the sexual motivation present in all normal individuals - especially young adolescents - and cigarettes.

Another Camel ad can be found on the Yanks page and another on the Polling pages.

Masturbating young man againNote: If you do not think the last image in the left hand column is intended to be a representation of someone masturbating then have a look at the Art Attack page.  You will see how Picasso and other artists present sexually loaded messages using simple alterations to abstract representations of the human form.  If such renowned artists believe they can elicit emotional responses with their abstract images, then it seems reasonable to expect that similar responses can be expected with imagery that is closer to normality.

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 Parody of Camel 'health warning'

*This health warning was adapted from Camel's recent parodies of  real 'Health Warnings'.  See for example the original of the Monster Beach Party ad.

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No smoking sign.Future Developments

Would you be interested in supporting the development of a web site focussing specifically on cigarette advertising, smoking behaviour, nicotine addiction and related information? In particular would you like to help encourage youngsters to develop a healthy scepticism about advertising practices associated with cigarette advertising and promotion? If you can offer either financial assistance to develop such a site or have material available that could be of use on such a site, the author would be pleased if you would contact him.






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To the best of the author's knowledge none of the illustrations, in the format used on this site, are subject to copyright. If copyright has been inadvertently breached please contact the author in order to rectify the matter. All brands and logos referred to or illustrated on this site are the property of the relevant companies and copyright holders. However, commentary and other information produced by the author can be freely copied and distributed. Similarly, illustrations of ads, so long as they are accompanied by commentary or are presented in the form of parody, can also be copied and distributed but please acknowledge as the source. Translation of tobacco company ads and relevant commentary into languages other than English will be particularly welcomed.

Last Revised: 3rd January, 2003


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