Why Would a camel Smoke Anyway?



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Paper 2 – Rhetorical Analysis of an Advertisement

“Why Would A Camel Smoke Anyway?”

By Fran Casale

Forms of advertising have been used for thousands of years in order to persuade potential customers into buying specific goods and services. However, companies and corporations do not always use ethical or truthful advertising practices. Rather, ads that appeal to the subconscious of the product's target audience are often utilized as they are typically the most effective. “Joe Camel” is the figure of a highly effective advertisement campaign of Camel Cigarettes that ran from 1987 to 1997. Through a clever use of imagery and rhetorical techniques, the tobacco company achieved it's goal of increased cigarette sales and thus increased profits. However, on May 28, 1997, the U.S. Federal Trade commissioned charged that the ad campaign featuring Joe Camel was targeting people under the age of 18, which is in violation of a federal law. Camel Cigarettes subsequently dropped the campaign, and Joe Camel was converted into a symbol of the anti-tobacco community. Joe Chemo has been presented as a sickly, suffering modern version of Joe Camel undergoing chemotherapy. Posters and billboards containing Joe Chemo urge viewers to abstain from smoking by effectively displaying a parody of a once prominent tobacco figure, while also playing with the viewers' emotions. Finally, the ads present a logical argument against smoking in a “cause and effect” manner.

In the advertisement campaign, viewers are shown a parody of Camel Cigarettes' former mascot by exploiting Joe Camel's famous image while also bringing forth pure irony. Joe Camel was typically presented as a cool, laid back, humanoid camel who always has a Camel cigarette in his mouth. Often in the company of other smooth characters or sexy women, Joe usually sported a very masculine, cool outfit. He is often in the process of performing some hip activity, such as playing billiards or riding a motorcycle. Joe Camel was essentially the perfect symbol of Camel cigarettes' “smooth character,” a slogan that was occasionally presented in the ads. However, the qualities of Joe Camel are also seen by viewers as a representation of what they could be like if they smoked cigarettes, specifically Camel cigarettes. People would just wish that they could be nearly as awesome as Joe Camel. Joe Chemo, on the other hand, is supposed to represent what Joe Camel has become after years of smoking cigarettes. Joe's suave suit or muscle shirt have been replaced with a hospital gown, and his signature sunglasses have been removed to reveal his sunken eyes. Rather than spend his time with beautiful women wearing bikinis at the beach, Joe now sits in a hospital bed, where he periodically receives high doses of medication to fight off his developed cancer. The artist effectively manipulates Joe Camel's image and fame in order to appeal to anyone looking at the ad. Viewers of the advertisement will instantly recognize the parody of the famous mascot that they had been exposed to for ten years. The goal of the Joe Chemo ads is to show its audience to show the true effects of smoking by exploiting the easily recognizable image of the former tobacco figure in order to appear more respectable. Therefore, the anti-smoking agenda of the people behind the Joe Chemo ads will be more effective. The contrast between the two figures is, of course, rich in irony. The artist responsible for Joe Chemo shows that not even the mascots of the tobacco companies are safe from the toxicity of smoking cigarettes. An audience of teenagers would find the use of such clever methods amusing, and this would also cause the ad to be more resultant. However, the simple use of Joe's likeness is not the only factor that appeals to viewers. In conjunction, the posters containing Joe Chemo also tug on the heartstrings to a certain extent.

The images in which Joe Chemo is represented also have the tendency to appeal to the emotional aspects of their audience. Viewers of the ads see that Joe Chemo now resides in a hospital, where he is suffering a life laden with pain and loneliness. All of Joe's friends who surrounded him in his glory days are no where in sight. His facial expression reveals overall sadness. The depiction of Joe in this situation is certainly depressing and will surely persuade viewers to stay as far away from smoking cigarettes as possible. As most people in modern times have had friends or relatives stricken with cancer, it is a reminder of the pain and sadness witnessed first hand in those situations. Also, the fact that Joe is typically seen alone reveals to viewers that anyone who thought he was cool for smoking in the past has left him to suffer. These examples not only cause people to fear the suffering associated with smoking, but they also make viewers feel sympathy for Joe. The sexy women and his smooth camel-band mates are in one instance traded for other camels stricken with lung cancer wandering through the halls of the hospital with an IV stand following them. In another example, Joe is lying in a coffin as his smooth friends peer on, and they are surprisingly not smoking. A once well respected camel of society has been reduced to nothing. The pictures of Joe Chemo could even aggravate viewers. If the tobacco companies had not revealed the health risks of their product to their cherished mascot, they surely would have been lying to their customers as well. Again, people would feel sorry for Joe because he was only “doing his job” for Camel Cigarettes, but he paid the ultimate price. A younger audience could also find the pictures quite amusing. An over-the-top cool camel who smoked most of his life, only to be diagnosed with “cancer of the hump” is not only funny, but this message will appeal to teenagers who appreciate this type of humor. Besides working with the emotions of their audience, the creators of Joe Chemo also have a rational reason to present to viewers as to why smoking is harmful.

Lastly, the creators of Joe Chemo make a logical argument against smoking by presenting the pain and suffering that Joe is undergoing as a direct effect of smoking cigarettes. Only recently has smoking been seen by Western countries in a negative light, as it is a direct cause of many diseases such as lung cancer, heart attacks, birth defects, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. However, the danger of smoking was known at the time of the creation of the Joe Camel ads. The ads simply did not address these dangers, as they would obviously deter potential customers from starting to smoke. To make up for this disregard for truth, Joe Chemo appeals to logic, as Joe is depicted as the real result of smoking tobacco. From a logical standpoint, the audience would be illogical to smoke because they know how it could lead them to a similar fate as Joe's. People may look at Joe in his predicament and think to themselves how stupid he must feel to have continued smoking despite the warnings and dangers, which are even printed on the packs of cigarettes themselves. However, despite all of these appeals in advertisements depicting Joe Chemo, smoking cigarettes will be picked up by teenagers everyday.

The appearance of Joe Chemo in ads to convince people to stop smoking is not the most original campaign. Many organizations exist with the sole intent of removing the act of smoking from society, and their ads and commercials present facts and hard evidence as to why smoking is hazardous to health. But why do people continue to pick up smoking everyday? Smoking tobacco has been so ingrained in the past few generations, when the dangers of cigarettes were not yet known, that it is hard to quickly get rid of the habit. Cigarettes have also invaded nearly every facet of media over the years. Famous actors and actresses can be seen smoking in many films and television shows. It has become an icon and symbol of rebellion and independence, and it may take generations before the habit is “butted” out. There is also the theory that all these advertisements have saturated teens' minds to the point that the staggering statistics and long-term health effects have become “white noise,” and the ads will only drive them to see what all the fuss is about.

By appealing to a wide audience using parody of a famous image, emotional effects, and rational claims, the advertisements containing Joe Chemo work to prevent viewers from picking up smoking or convince them to stop the habit. The effectiveness of the ads may not be known, as the draw the smoking has on people is undeniably large, and perhaps no amount of evidence, appeals, or statistics will end Big Tobacco's reign.

Works Cited

"Joe Camel." Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. 22 July 2004



Joe Chemo: A Camel Who Wishes He'd Never Smoked. 2001. S. Plous. 2 March 2009 .


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