Link to public radio
(KUOW) story on
Red Kamel promotion
of Red Kamel Cigarettes September
to October 1998
(millions of cigarettes)
fall, RJR was looking-forward to a happy future for its look-back brand, Red Kamel
RJ Reynolds first
launched Red Kamel cigarettes in 1913 as an up-scale companion to the more plebian
Camel. Like many upwardly mobile products, Red Kamels did not survive the
depression, and were dropped in 1936.
It would be thirty years before Red Kamel
came out of the wilderness. In 1996 they resurfaced not in corner stores or smoke-shops,
but in the urban-chic watering holes of sophisticated cities.
Red Kamel was first launched through bars
and clubs in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Dallas. A second wave brought it to
bars and clubs in a dozen other North American cities, including Toronto.
Red Kamel's advertisers chose images
well-suited to their target market of young urban sophisticates. The Red Kamel theme is
neither completely retro, nor completely futuristic, but in the no-man's land of
And the gathering-spots which were selected
to push Red Kamel reflected that Generation X urban-chic.
The Red Kamel caravan stopped in Toronto
bars like the Lava on College Street, the Queen Street West's Gypsy Co-op, the Fluid
Lounge on Richmond and the Rivoli on Queen Street.
"Red Kamel Kocktail Klub events -
fashion shows, lounge acts, performance artists and DJs, all paid for by the company -
were regular features at a stable of clubs," reports Murray Whyte in the Globe and
Mail (July 25, 1998).
"Weekly ads in Toronto alternative
papers Now and Eye touted Red Kamel's brood of clubs and their schedule of
Toronto comedian Joa Gamelin told the Globe
reporter about her experience with Red Kamel. She said they sponsored every show she did
and bank-rolled all her expenses.
"Promotional posters, theatre fees,
sets and exclusive engraved invitations - all carrying the Red Kamel logo - were provided
to her free of charge. In return, Kamel festooned clubs with promotional material of its
own. There were mobiles of the pin-up girl riding a crescent moon and a real-life
cigarette girl, complete with short skirt, brass buttoned jacket and tray of Kamel
Then, suddenly, the Red Kamel Club oasis
dried up. RJR pulled out of all promotions.
It wasn't only the promotions that stopped.
RJR-Macdonald also stopped shipping Red Kamel cigarettes into Canada. The last shipment,
in April 1998, was only 100,000 cigarettes (500 cartons).
Curiously, Red Kamel do not appear to be an
US-taste cigarette, but a Canadian blend of tobacco in a US package.
Was it the taste? Was it the marketing?
Were there, as the Globe and Mail report hints at, legal problems?
Once again, RJR-Macdonald, isn't telling.
Rolling Stone Advertisement - 1997
Rolling Stone Advertisement - 1998
Toronto Entertainment weekly EYE,
November 27, 1997
Red Kamel packs purchased in rural Ontario, 1997