People who remember when tobacco advertising was a prominent part of the media landscape — and others who recall what they learned in Marketing 101 — probably recollect that actors like Barbara Stanwyck and athletes like Mickey Mantle routinely endorsed cigarettes.
From the 1920s into the 1950s, cigarette ads featured endorsers as varied as babies, Mickey Mantle, doctors and even Santa Claus. But, how about doctors and other medical professionals, proclaiming the merits of various cigarette brands? Or politicians? What about cartoon characters in cigarette ads? Or children? Babies? Even Santa Claus?
In this post, we are going to present some vintage ads of doctors endorsing tobacco smoking.
The serial ads “More Doctors Smoke Camels” (1946 – 1950) promote doctors smoking cigarettes and get Camel ahead of other brands in the marketing competition.
One common technique used by the tobacco industry to reassure a worried public was to incorporate images of physicians in their ads. The none-too-subtle message was that if the doctor, with all of his expertise, chose to smoke a particular brand, then it must be safe. Unlike with celebrity and athlete endorsers, the doctors depicted were never specific individuals, because physicians who engaged in advertising would risk losing their license. (It was contrary to accepted medical ethics at the time for doctors to advertise.) Instead, the images always presented an idealized physician - wise, noble, and caring - who enthusiastically partook of the smoking habit. All of the "doctors" in these ads came out of central casting from among actors dressed up to look like doctors. Little protest was heard from the medical community or organized medicine, perhaps because the images showed the profession in a highly favorable light. This genre of ads regularly appeared in medical journals such as the Journal of the American Medical Association, an organization, which for decades collaborated closely with the industry. The big push to document health hazards also did not arrive until later.
The ads in this particular theme are all from a single R. J. Reynolds campaign, which ran from 1940 to 1949 and claimed "More Doctors smoke Camels." In the majority of these advertisements, the "More Doctors" campaign slogan was included alongside other popular Camel campaigns such as "T-Zone ('T for Throat, T for Taste')," "More people are smoking Camels than ever before," and "Experience is the Best Teacher." In this way, Camel was able to maintain consistency across its advertisements.
Within the "More Doctors" campaign, a story can be told through a series of advertisements. The story documents a young boy's journey following in his father's footsteps into the field of medicine. In the first ad of this series, an obstetrician tells his little boy, "Now Daddy has to go to another 'birthday party,' son" as he leaves his son's party to deliver a baby.
Next, a doctor tells his grown-up boy, "It's all up to you, son," as the young man decides whether or not to follow a career in medicine.
Then, the young medical student, class of '46, is joined by his father, class of '06 during a lecture.
Later, the young man is an "interne," not quite on his own yet.
Finally, he is seen opening up his very own private practice in the company of his adoring wife.
This storyline, though not explicit, works to further portray the doctor as a family man and a determined, committed, self-sacrificing individual.
In an attempt to substantiate the "More Doctors" claim, R.J. Reynolds paid for surveys to be conducted during medical conventions using two survey methods: Doctors were gifted free packs of Camel cigarettes at tobacco company booths and them upon exiting the exhibit hall, were then immediately asked to indicate their favorite brand or were asked which cigarette they carried in their pocket.
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