Ah, Joe Camel. Once you were everywhere — from convenience-store doors to playing cards to koozies. By 1997, however, public criticism and relentless litigation led RJR to end your reign.
Why do Joe Camel and other cheesy tobacco ephemera deserve a place in the North Carolina Collection? Take it away, Emily Jack!
“Sponsors [of television shows in the 1950s] paid particular attention to anything they thought would boost the competition….
“On the ‘Camel News Caravan,’ in an interview with ‘Lucky’ Luciano, only the mobster’s first name, Charles, could be used, so viewers would not confuse it with an ad for Lucky Strikes. The word ‘lucky’ seemed to pose a particular problem for American Tobacco’s competitors. Scriptwriters regularly combed through thesaurus to dredge up synonyms like ‘fortunate’ or ‘providential’ whenever the forbidden ‘L word’ popped up. How bad could it get? This bad: even the word ‘American’ was proscribed on one show….”
— From “The Box: An Oral History of Television, 1920-1961” by Jeff Kisseloff (1995)
“[When “The Flintstones” first aired in the early ’60s] Winston was the main sponsor. Episodes ended with Fred and his pal Barney looking for a way to unwind after a long day and settling on sharing a smoke. Fred and Wilma then do the same. (You can watch the ad here.) The ad closed with Fred speaking Winston’s then-famous catchphrase: ‘Winston tastes good like a cigarette should.’
“And that’s where the controversy came in. No, not cartoon characters hawking cigs — while there were some who objected, the cartoon at the time was seen mostly as geared for grown-ups. And regardless, those complaints were dwarfed by the larger outcries: people complaining about Winston’s grammar….”