An Alternate Dimension Where Everyone Wears Black Converse And Embraces Corporate Image Campaigns That Impoverish And Kill Them
As reported in the New York Times, Rolling Stone's recent cigarette ads were a flagrant violation of the Master Settlement Agreement between the states and the tobacco companies that restricts tobacco advertising at young people. Unauthorized use of the artists to endorse a product is a huge legal issue, but the nature of the product makes the situation even more despicable. These bands were used to sell cigarettes to minors - undeniably packaged in cartoonish doodles on notebook paper and enclosed in Camel cigarette ads.
In addition to targeting the 3 million youth readership of Rolling Stone, this was also a stunning example of corporate tobacco setting its sights on independent music. Putting advertising restrictions on the companies that historically pioneered such societal gems as corporate PR and identity marketing is only challenging them to find new ways to maintain demand for a product that everyone knows is the single greatest cause of preventable death. And they'll do it by continuing to misrepresent facts with media, but with our indie music and its corresponding indie media?
The problem is when tobacco advertisers are increasingly driven "underground", we are seeing some of the most sophisticated and pervasive lifestyle marketing and experiential sponsorship strategies ever conceived. You'll see the executives react smoothly to this RS issue by dropping print ads altogether, but the truth is that they've already transitioned the majority of their spending away from high-profile print campaigns that are dirtying their "responsible" corporate image.
RJ Reynolds (Camel, Kool, and The Farm) is one of the companies that say they (read=not) "support" underground music by deliberately building close relationships with clubs, labels, and musicians in order to buy identity-share with the audience - specifically in indie rock and hip hop communities (identities within the youth and 18-24 demographics with the absolute highest smoking rates). And many in the music business, of course, are welcoming the free money with open arms - but the consequences are a deadly step back for our generation.
Local club and national tour sponsorships are buying real artists to perform as tobacco spokespeople alongside projected loops of tobacco branding, literally as the new cigarette advertisements - only more effective. Some examples purported on Camel's website include shows by the Flaming Lips, Black Keys, Dinosaur Jr, Electric Six, Datarock, and Flosstradamus - not to mention the "New Jazz Philosophy" featuring Talib Kweli and The Roots. The image of Talib Kweli selling a product that is a fatal social injustice unto itself (and no one calling him on it) is a world upside down.
Hold your favourite musicians and media outlets accountable for not using their art to convince you to buy products, especially ones that will impoverish and kill you. And watch out folks, this is just the beginning.
All Smiles - A Moth In A Cloud Of Smoke (mp3)