The R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company had a problem. How, they asked themselves, can we get these misanthropic twenty-somethings to smoke our cigarettes instead of the ones they already smoke? Then, a light bulb: Brooklyn. We’ll sell our cigarettes on the cred accrued by Williamsburg.
So they put the Williamsburg Bridge on the package, along with this cringe-inducing commentary, courtesy The Brooklyn Paper:
“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.
Well, attention solo saunterers, modern-day pioneers and those harboring scads of lighthearted angst! You can buy these Williamsburg-themed cigs right now. And the shocking part of all this? People are falling for the ads, even in Brooklyn.
“I smoke Marlboro, but whenever I see the Williamsburg [Camels] I buy it,” Abdo Hussein, a worker at a deli in Greenpoint told The Brooklyn Paper today. “I live in the neighborhood, so it’s cool to have. We’re selling out of them quick.”
Not only that, it seems there’s a bit of a frenzy going on here. Bodega owners smack dab on the mainline, on Bedford and Manhattan Avenues, say they sell out of “Williamsburgs” the day they come in, and customers sometimes buy every pack available.
It remains to be seen whether the association with Williamsburg will move units across the nation, but it seems blind neighborhood pride has superseded the crass advertising tactics of R.J. Reynolds.
How can this disgusting strategy create such a scramble for smokes? Is Williamsburg really such a powerful signifyer that people just have to buy these things? Or the better question: Can it be possible that their ad guy sells cigarettes as well as Don Draper?