Published Dec 06, 2007Despite Joe Camels undeniable cool, Camel brand cigarettes is currently in hot water for doing something very uncool: using indie rock to try and sell cancer sticks. In the November issue of Rolling Stone, Camel paid for a nine-page advertorial insert called "Indie Rock Universe, which was designed to appeal to fans of what the tobacco firm calls "free range music (aka independent rock). Laid out like some high school geeks notebook, the scribbled pages categorise the expansive galaxy that is "indie rock," illustrating "an alternate universe where everyone wears black Converse. (That in itself is an arguable stereotype considering the many relationships Chuck Taylors have had in their 90-year existence.)
Market research has proven the genre contains many different planets the advertiser could play with, and so they came up with the hairy "The Bearded Men of Space Station Seven (starring Devendra Banhart, Iron & Wine, Will Oldham), the infuriating "Angry Red Planet (starring M.I.A., Xiu Xiu, the Nightwatchman, aka Tom Morello, who must have turned "indie behind my back), the jerky "Spazmodica (Liars, Celebration, Les Savy Fav) and the just plain daft "Unidentified Flying Object (Joanna Newsom orbiting all by her lonesome). For a good laugh, click here to see the layout in full, courtesy of Terminal Boredom. Note: Please update your collections; Antony should now be filed under "twee" and Peter and the Wolf have changed their name to Peter and the Wolves.
As you may have guessed, none of the artists mentioned gave Camel or RSpermission to use their names, meaning the whole campaign is not only officially embarrassing but also very illegal. But thats only the tip of the iceberg. The campaign has been halted not just to sort out that problem, but also because it is illegal to use cartoon images in tobacco ads a law that Camel should be all too familiar with since they once used Mr. Cool, Joe Camel, to push their smokes. Attorney generals in nine states (California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington so, all blue states, right?) have filed lawsuits against Camel claiming it violated the cartoon ban in the nine-page pullout, which could result in a fine of $100 million. Who knows how much the National and Ted Leo (who was also abused by Taco Bell in a contest scandal recently) will look for in their possible class action suits, but I hear these tobacco companies are rich, so more power to the hardworking musicians involved.
Click here to take Rolling Stones tour of the "Indie Rock Universe.