The Camel Man

Cigarette Company’s advertisement campaigns are highly charged political discussions in this day and age. They have been accused of purposely appealing to teenagers, selling images that portray glamorous, sexy people who also smoke, while denying charges of addiction and health dangers. When one of their advertisements was carefully scrutinized this seemed to be true. The Camel cigarette advertisement featuring a sailor having his cigarette lit for him not only sells cigarettes but also sells sex, masculinity, and independence; the advertisement accomplishes this through content, color, and artistic style, all of which provides a very persuasive argument for buying Camel cigarettes.

One of the ways this ad sells sex along with the cigarettes is by featuring young, attractive people interacting. People are often seen lighting cigarettes for others in movies; it is a sign of interest and is often a kind of flirtatious mating ritual between men and women. Often though you see the man lighting a cigarette for the woman, not the other way around. However, since the young, attractive woman is lighting the cigarette for the man in this ad it implies that the man is extremely desirable; not only that but he is an extremely desirable man smoking Camel cigarettes. The conclusion that is drawn is that the man is so sexy and desirable that he only has time to pause for the beautiful woman to light his cigarette before he goes onto the next beautiful woman.

Sex is also sold in this advertisement through the text. The words at the top of the ad state, "Pleasure to Burn." The word "pleasure" with young and attractive people under it conjures up the idea of sensual pleasure. The word "burn" implies that there is an excess of pleasure that anyone who smokes Camel cigarettes will also have. This also goes to support the idea that the smoking sailor is so desirable he has women following his every step and hanging on his every word.

The most immediate and unconscious aspect that sells sex in this ad is the sailor himself. The phrase that every sailor has "a girl in every port" is familiar to almost everyone. Sailors have long been thought of as young, male creatures in their sexual prime. The cigarette ad is playing off of the assumption that everyone thinks this about sailors. This assumption about sailors also serves to take the sting out of the morality issues everyone thinks of when faced with a cigarette ad. Sailors’ sexual conduct, far from being socially condemned, is instead condoned and sometimes even encouraged. By using a sailor as the main focus the ad has cleverly allowed people to feel at ease when faced with both the cigarettes and sex.

The yellow background also tries to negate the otherwise negative associations with smoking, the health dangers. The sailor is smoking and yet is surrounded by a light cheery yellow. Yellow is thought of as a bright, warm color that brings life and hope and sunshine. It is not associated with cancer or any other problem that cigarettes cause. Because of this, the sailor, with his cocky grin, appears to have his whole life ahead of him. He is not worried about death or anything else except fun, even though he is smoking. So what common sense says at first is a contradiction, smoking and having a future, now seems plausible.

The idea of independence and freedom is also helping to sell this ad. The man is walking and he has a sack slung over his shoulder, as if all he owns and needs is in that bag. It is this type of image that shows he can pick up and leave anytime he wants, as well as being perfectly capable of taking care of himself when he does. He is also a sailor, which guarantees his freedom, especially from the woman he’s with. He is simply pausing long enough to have fun and then moving on. This image cuts away from the idea of responsible and safe sex that everyone now touts. It brings to mind that of an older, more ignorant age that accepted wild young men and their wandering ways.

The artistic style also helps to sell the cigarettes by representing an older era. It appeals to what most people think of as "a simpler time." The style is that of a drawing or a painting. Very rarely are ads drawn anymore; in this age of computer technology and fashion photographers it is practically unheard of, yet this ad uses a style and medium that was popular several decades ago. This is to remind the reader of a supposedly more innocent time, by doing this it makes smoking seem more innocent. The content is also portrayed as older. From the woman’s hairstyle to the little camel in the right hand corner saying, "Since 1913" this ad exudes an old school appeal.

One of the most interesting and persuasive aspects of this ad is the aura of masculinity that is being sold. The man smoking is a sailor; he has freedom, strength, and virility. Not only that but he is socially accepted. When he leaves this woman he’s going back to a boys club. A club that excludes women and brings to mind an era when all-men’s clubs were tolerated and women were looked down upon in intelligence and position. This would appeal especially to insecure men. The woman is portrayed with her face not showing; you only see the back of her head. She is also shown doing a service for the man. This exclusion of women gives the man a feeling of power and control. It also makes this feeling seem okay, because it was an older era, one where this type of behavior was allowed. It is this older brand of masculinity that is often thought of with longing in our age of gender confusion. The ad carefully uses this to make it seem like a "real" man should smoke, that then he’d be in of his life, and he would have everything this sailor appears to have.

The idea of an experienced yet young smooth talking man who always has sex easily within his grasp and can leave at any time is what this ad represents, but more than that it represents this image smoking Camel cigarettes. It is this easy sex, independence, and masculinity of an older era that is being sold in a pack of cigarettes. The Devil-may-care attitude of a confident man with no worries and no troubles except where his next light might come from is what is sold. This ad manages to sell all of this with the simple brushstrokes of a virtual painter, some color, and one line "Pleasure to Burn." Suddenly this ad makes it seem as if smoking could be the turning point in your life; smoke our product and look what you can become taunts the ad. It is a beacon to men who are dissatisfied with their lives and wish for the image they see in the magazine, only this ad is fiction, and it’s not the sailor who will end with lung cancer, still trying to get the girl.