Joe Camel — a hipster? R.J. Reynolds markets its smokes to Williamsburg

The Brooklyn Paper
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Williamsburg’s hipsters have been smoking for decades — but Joe Camel wants them to start puffing their own neighborhood brand.

R.J. Reynolds launched a “Williamsburg” version of Camel smokes last month — in perhaps the most blatant attempt to corner the hipster market since American Apparel opened on N. Sixth Street.

But there’s nothing local about this promotional effort. As part of the 10-week “Camel Break Free” promotion, cigarette boxes of Camel Blues, formerly Camel Lights, have been redesigned to feature 10 “cool” places throughout the country such as Seattle, the Haight and Austin, Tex.

Camel’s “Williamsburg” box places a tanned dromedary on what appears to be Kent Avenue with the former Domino Sugar factory and the Williamsburg Bridge in its background.

According to the Camel website, the company refers to Williamsburg as “the most famous hipster neighborho­od,” but assures smokers, “It’s not about hip, it’s about breaking free.”

“It’s about last call, a sloppy kiss goodbye and a solo saunter to a rock show in an abandoned building …” said the promotional material, possibly written by a team of marketers who have never been to Williamsburg. “It’s where a tree grows.” (Groan.)

The marketing campaign promises its customers will earn “serious street cred” for trying the Williamsburg brand, and noted that Camel met with some “modern-day pioneers” with “lighthearted angst and rebellion” in the neighborhood to try the brand out.

Company spokesman David Howard said the marketing campaign was movitated by one thing: Helping hipsters to understand that Camel fits their way of life.

“It’s known as a hipster neighborho­od,” Howard said. “We’ve found the temperament of what Williamsburg stands for, and its artistic approach to life, meshes with the Camel brand.”

Not so, said Councilman Steve Levin (D–Williamsbu­rg), who was not amused by this latest attempt to promote smoking in a targeted demographic. The cigarette industry has been notorious over the years for targeting blacks, housewives, and even kids with specific marketing strategies.

“I don’t like to see a promotion targeting a neighborhood that I represent,” said Levin. “Look at the history of cigarette advertising. Cigarettes are very dangerous, and I don’t like to see an ad campaign which is trying to get more people to smoke in my district.”

Borough President Markowitz was very slightly more amused.

“As a former smoker, I know there is no way to responsibly use cigarettes,” said Markowitz. “So when we say that Williamsburg and Brooklyn are smokin’, we mean smokin’ hot — not smokin’ cigarettes!”

The company began its 10-week national campaign in New Orleans and won’t make a true promotional push in Brooklyn beyond stocking the cigarettes in stores and marketing on the website.

It is uncertain what kind of reception Camel will receive when the promotional campaign comes to Williamsburg, but hipster bloggers Andrea Bartz and Brenna Ehrlich, authors of “Stuff Hipsters Hate,” strongly questioned whether hipster smokers would take the initiative to visit Camel’s website and register for prizes as part of the campaign.

“The campaign might do alright with the 17-year-old poseur set in Toledo, but Brooklynites will not be interested,” said Bartz. “After all they roll their own, or bum Parliament Lights off whomever’s outside the bar.”

Updated 5:21 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Mike from Williamsburg says:
That was a very well-placed "(Groan)."
Nov. 11, 2010, 11:43 am
dean from mine says:
You hipsters are just way too hip to be hip. lol.
Nov. 11, 2010, 6:06 pm
mark higgins from Gay Ridge says:
Hipsters are the Bread and Butter of this sad paper. Enough of the nonsense and grow up! You people are unwanted interlopers (ref. Al Sharpton) go back to your trust fund parents and leave us alone!!!
Nov. 11, 2010, 6:35 pm
gene from Greenwich Village says:
It's telling that this article comes out on the exact day WNYC features a segment on why "hipster" is such a hated term, and why no one wants to be called one.

Very hip, RJR. FAIL.

RJR has also been flooding the freebie papers with full page ads for their smokeless products. They want to get New Yorkers addicted, and they want it real bad.

Get your scumbag ass out of town, RJR.
Nov. 11, 2010, 9:06 pm
Eazy D from Sheepshead Bay says:
i think some Cugines from Bensonhurst need to kick some Hipsters' butts -- and then smoke their cigarettes.
Nov. 11, 2010, 11:55 pm
Judd from NYC says:
I love this. What took so long? Drive these hipsters back to Ohio and Jersey.
Nov. 12, 2010, 8:34 am
scallywag from NYC says:
What better and more ironic gravestone for this fanciful phenomenon from the oughties than such a frivolous half-assing of an ad campaign content with fatuously surveying all the symptoms of a careless cancer that, as if by accident, has finally so fully fattened itself on its own excrement that its host could no longer bear the burden of supporting it?
Nov. 12, 2010, 10:12 am
diehipster from Non-Gentrified Brooklyn says:
It's amazing how the reporter has to refer to the Stuff Hipsters Hate transplant girls Bartz and Ehrlich for a "brooklyn opinion". Hysterical.
Nov. 12, 2010, 2:31 pm
Eric from a different Brooklyn neighborhood says:
Are the "decades" during which these (mostly 20-something) hipsters have been smoking (according to the lede) meant to include their childhood years in the Midwest before they conquered Williamsburg (less than 10 years ago)?
Nov. 12, 2010, 2:45 pm
Gene O'Cide from the empty part says:
The only thing worse than the hipsters in Brooklyn are the natives.
Nov. 12, 2010, 3:43 pm
Jason from Brooklyn says:
Camel Hopes to Spread the Hipster Cancer with Williamsburg-brand Cigarettes.

'Irony is Bliss- Have a Camel today.'
Nov. 12, 2010, 3:47 pm
Courtney from CT says:
Say the word "hipster" one more time, Jesus Christ.
Nov. 12, 2010, 5:18 pm
Stacey from Downtown says:
Guess Joe camel is looking to take out the greasers in Williamsburg. Great idea.
Nov. 12, 2010, 5:52 pm
Lauren from Portland, OR says:
You can't make hipsters like you, they have to find you accidentally, in a free box.
Nov. 12, 2010, 5:54 pm
brooklynwry from ft greenley says:
These smokes are marketed on hipster cache, they're not being marketed to actual hipsters who live in Williamsburg. RJR isn't that out of touch, they're quite savvy. Williamsburg is cool, hence, they'd love for their smokes to be associated. They also know that hipsters never buy anything labeled explicitly "for hipsters". There's no irony.

But really - there is irony these comments. People totally fail to see their own "trendy" biases, even when commenting on those of the most trendy , the hipsters. It happens to be trendy to hate on cigarettes at the moment.

You don't like cancer? Ok. Move out of the city with the highest concentrations of air pollution, ground toxins, lead paint, et al. Smoking cigarettes isn't good for you. Neither is living in NYC, by any objective measure. Neither is eating a double cheeseburger or painting your house. So really, shut up about the silly cigarettes. And I don't even smoke.
Nov. 13, 2010, 2:45 pm
gene from NYC says:

>>It happens to be trendy to hate on cigarettes at the moment. You don't like cancer?

Wow, Mr. Cool, you are so hip and wise. You're so accepting of 400,000 people dead a year of tobacco use, of the bulk of smokers deliberately hooked as kids, and of an industry convicted as racketeers by a Federal Court for 50 years of flooding newspapers and magazines with phony science and un-credited op-eds and letters, all meant to hid the effects of smoking (which go well beyond cancer) hidden from the public, and all the while (we know from their own documents) it was well-aware of the horrendous cost to society and to our loved ones.

How "trendy now" to object to such an industry's moves. Of course, the judge in that 10-year trial noted that the racketeering _is still going on, and would continue into the future_.

The uncredited disinformation campaign continues, trying to deflect criticism of the industry in any way it can.

And whether as a dupe or a principal--you're part of that campaign.
Nov. 14, 2010, 10:45 am
Stacey from Downtown says:
Being an ex smoker I wouldn't say it's trendy. I can choose not to smoke cigarettes. I can't choose not to breath. That was a pretty dumb comment.
Nov. 14, 2010, 11:23 am

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