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  • Writer's pictureRyan C

Remixing Joe Camel

  For many years, tobacco companies exploited the medical profession to blow smoke in the public’s face. Many advertisements in the 1940s and 1950s showed doctors endorsing the products – many were often smoking cigarettes themselves. As one ad for RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company mentioned, “More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette.”

It was a smart tactic on the part of advertisers to focus on doctors, as Americans trusted physicians with their health. Facing a threat to their business, tobacco companies wanted to allay concerns about the dangers of smoking to quiet the public’s increasing apprehension. Some advertisements suggested certain brands were healthier than others.          

      For a remix assignment, I chose a television commercial from the 1950s for Camel cigarettes. I added the old NBC peacock logo off the top to set the scene that this was from another era. I kept only the announce track but remixed the narration with updated photos. While the commercial discusses how doctors endorse smoking, the images I used suggest otherwise. I found some excellent pictures of “Joe Chemo,” a remix character used for an anti-smoking campaign in the 1990s. I applied a filter to all the images to give them an older, “aged film” appearance to fit the timeframe. And I used a “wipe down” transition between images that was popular in mid-century television production.

          The result: a new message that doctors do not endorse smoking, and taking part in the habit can have deadly consequences.

          This remix was significant to me because I have always been anti-smoking. I never got to know my paternal grandmother because she died before I was born. She had a multipack-a-day smoking habit, and I am sure that played a huge role in her death. My grandfather smoked a pipe until he suffered a massive heart attack and finally kicked the habit. My father hated being exposed to smoking so much during his childhood that he made sure we grew up in a smoke-free household. I thought it was effective ending the remix on the cigarette message because it has a double meaning: smoking really can cause the end for so many people.  


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