Indie Rock Universe’s Camel Controversy

We realize not that many people read Rolling Stone these days, so maybe you’ve missed the hullabaloo entirely: In the November issue of the magazine, Camel Cigarettes ran an advertorial nine-page insert titled “The Indie Rock Universe,” obviously targeting indie folk. Before entering the actual meat of the campaign, there’s this illustrated high-school-kid-looking notebook with various scribbles portraying an “Indie Rock Universe” as “an alternate dimension where everyone wears black Converse.” Um, what year is this again?

Shoe choice aside, once you went past that page, you were given an accordion-style map pullout of a cartoon-y outer space realm spotted with stars and orbs and places like “Animal Planet,” where Grizzly Bear, Band Of Horses, Dr. Dog, Cat Power, Animal Collective, etc, cavort. (Slyly, the wolf bands get their own planet, “Lupus Major.”)

Some other hot spots are a tad more random, e.g. “Angry Red Planet,” which comes with a “fight the power!” tag and includes Against Me!, M.I.A. Ted Leo, Xiu Xiu, and Le Tigre, among others. Other stops on the tour: Northwesteroids, Champagne Supernovas, The Brooklyn Beltway (which is where the National and… the Strokes and the Rogers Sisters? pop up), Planet Twee, Lost In Bass, Spazmodica (go Parts & Labor!), and Second Album Black Hole (poor Bloc Party). Only one musician gets her own planet: Joanna Newsom’s listed as “Unidentified Flying Object.” Makes sense. A sample:

Rolling Stone and Camel combine on the ill-advised Indie Rock Universe campaign

Catch the rest of the scans at Terminal Boredom or with musical accompaniment at the Stone itself.

It’s all fairly ridiculous and embarrassing, but turns out it’s also illegal: Remember that whole rule about not using cartoons to sell cigs? Guess Camel forget, too. The nitty and the gritty post jump.

Via The Daily Swarm:

R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. said today that it has voluntarily halted promotions for a Camel marketing campaign aimed at adult listeners of independent rock music.

The decision comes a day after Reynolds was sued by nine state attorneys general over ads for Camel cigarettes that recently ran in Rolling Stone magazine.

The attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington accused Reynolds of violating the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement between 46 states and tobacco manufacturers because a nine-page pullout in the Nov. 15 issue sponsored by Reynolds contained cartoon images.

Other states are expected to file separate lawsuits. The company could face a fine exceeding $100 million for violating the cartoon ban, according to Tom Corbett, the attorney general for Pennsylvania.

Accompanying the print ad was a website (as of now, taken down) and sponsorship at a series of shows, as part of its “free range music” and “signature sound. signature blends” sloganeering. Ha ha.

Also — and this is important to note — the bands listed in “The Indie Rock Unverse” weren’t asked permission to have their names associated with the cancer sticks. You can see the complete list of musicians Camel co-opted over at the Swarm,” along with details about the possibility of bands bringing class action suits against Joe Camel and friends. (Man, would love to be there for that day in court! Wonder if they’d all jam?) If you’re in one of the bands who’s been wrongly lumped into this ridiculousness, we’d be interested to know your thoughts, so please do drop a line in the comments or via [email protected]

In the end, the one shining light to emerge from the debacle is a brief comment by one brilliant Swarm reader: “Has Camel posted their year end list yet?” Right, gold star for that one in our own little indie rock universe.