With Joe Camel Gone, Tobacco Makers Try a More Direct Approach
With Joe Camel gone, at the federal government's insistence, to that palm-studded marketing oasis in the sky, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco is turning to the magazine industry to give its biggest nondiscount brand a boost.
The result is CML, a quarterly printed on oversized matte paper and featuring what might be called the smoking lifestyle. Described by a Reynolds spokeswoman as a "magalog," as in both magazine and catalog, the first issue includes articles on fashion, food, travel and shopping, plus what is billed as the first installment of a fiction serial that the magazine modestly characterizes as "the trashiest tale this side of Melrose Place." There are also ads for Camel cigarettes as well as for accessories like ashtrays and lighters -- the better to smoke something with.
Lest CML, which is being mailed this month to hundreds of thousands of people identified as smokers older than 21 in 30 states, is confused somehow with other lifestyle magazines, say Martha Stewart Living, a quick look at the food section establishes where the CML target audience is coming from. The main article, "Cheat and Eat," tells readers how to position themselves as chefs by relying on packaged foods like Campbell's tomato soup, Stove Top stuffing (made by Kraft, a division of R.J. Reynolds' archrival, Philip Morris) and Jiffy corn muffin mix.
Then there are the articles about the bars of Miami's South Beach -- not incidentally, all of the ones that made the list participate in Camel marketing programs -- and biker dudes at a festival in Sturgis, S.D., home of the Camel Roadhouse, a bar declared "a focal point for the main action" in a picture caption accompanying the article.
The magazine begins with "The CML Charter," in which the difference between Arabian and Bactrian camels are discussed. (The Camel camel is an Arabian.) The magazine moves on to describe itself as "informative, inspiring and above all entertaining."
And, it adds, "As well as this, you're unlikely to track down a more inspiring source of exotic new blends from Camel than right here." The blends, which include vanilla-flavored and citrus-flavored cigarettes, are being marketed solely through the magazine.
The widespread changes in the tobacco industry in the last year, including the settlement agreement that bans some kinds of cigarette marketing as well as steep price increases and more competition among brands, led to the decision to produce CML, said Carole Crosslin, a spokeswoman for R.J. Reynolds. "We need advertising vehicles to work harder for us in this new world and to powerfully communicate our brand's positioning to adult smokers," she said. "CML will provide us with this opportunity to reach adult smokers with our brand message."
And other tobacco companies have reached the same conclusion. Brown & Williamson, a unit of BAT Industries, began publishing Real Edge late last year. The magazine focuses on men of a certain mindset with articles on James Bond and extreme sports. Earlier this year, the company added Flair, which is aimed at women and modeled after magazines like Glamour, said Steve Kottak, a Brown & Williamson spokesman.
Philip Morris went into the magazine business in 1996 and now mails Unlimited, published by Hachette Filipacchi, to about 1.8 million households. The magazine, subtitled "Action, Adventure and Good Times," is "not about smoking," said Michelle Berman, a vice president and group publisher at the custom publishing division of Hachette Filipacchi, a subsidiary of Lagardere. Unlimited has no articles about smoking and no photographs of people smoking, concentrating instead on outdoor adventure and other pursuits, Ms. Berman added. "The only thing you'll see are Marlboro ads," she said. "It's going to customers who are 21- to 29-year-old smokers. This is really about their lifestyle."
In January, Brown & Williamson plans to mail The Art of Simple Living, which could also be subtitled Not About Smoking. With articles like "In Search of the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie" and "Starting School," and other features on pumpkin carving and household money management, the magazine's pilot issue seems to draw more from Good Housekeeping's train of thought than the tobacco industry's. But a closer inspection turns up ads for Carlton, Kool, Capri and Misty Lights cigarettes, all made by Brown & Williamson. Like Real Edge and Flair, the magazine is published by Hearst's custom publishing division.
Bill Pecoriello, a tobacco and beverage analyst for Sanford C. Bernstein, said that as billboards and other channels for advertising had been closed off to tobacco companies, magazines became more attractive. "You're going to see more of this type of direct communication with smokers," he said.
Custom publishing in general has surged the last five years as advertisers seek ways to eliminate the guesswork in getting their message to the appropriate audience. With custom publishing, "content can be shaped directly by the advertiser," said David Wilkofsky, the managing partner of Wilkofsky Gruen Associates, a consulting firm.
He added, "If an advertiser promotes his product on standard media, he can shape his material but he can't shape the content surrounding his advertisement."
It is hardly surprising, then, that there is nothing approaching a health-and-fitness section in CML. Fire, smoke and cigarettes seem to be the dominant themes, set against a vaguely international, middle-income backdrop. A business profile zeroes in on Cengiz Emek, the general manager of a Turkish tobacco company. Turkey, the magazine informs its readers, is "the smoker's paradise."
As for Emek, "There is something almost shy about the way he explains that his job is the culmination of a lifelong love affair with tobacco," the article says. "It started when he smoked his first cigarette."
The global news pages of CML include an article about Swissair's smoking lounge in the Zurich airport and an update on the Montserrat volcano, which is apparently attracting tourists once again. Samsonite's line of clothing also gets a mention, as does a new Chinese restaurant in New York.
The magazine is being produced by Wink Media in London, a unit of Time Warner. Tyler Brule, the creative director, is best known for Wallpaper, a home and lifestyle magazine that Time Warner acquired in 1997.
Unlike the Philip Morris magazine, CML has no advertising other than that placed by R.J. Reynolds. Unlimited, on the other hand, includes ads from Kawasaki, Jack Daniels, JVC Mobile and the Franklin Mint, Ms. Berman said. Flair has ads from Reebok, Rite Aid and Subaru. Real Edge includes ads from Honda and Kawasaki.