Court Smokes Out Tobacco Company for Cartoon Ads
(CN) - R.J. Reynolds Tobacco violated a ban on the use of cartoon advertising with its 4-page spread in the 40th anniversary issue of Rolling Stone, an Illinois appeals court ruled.
According to a 1998 settlement agreement, Reynolds is no longer allowed to use cartoons in its advertisements, as it did for many years in the promotion of its Camel cigarettes.
In 2006, Reynolds unveiled its "Camel Farm" promotion, a partnership with independent record companies.
"The Farm Free Range Music" was the title of the four-page ad in the Nov. 14, 2007, issue of Rolling Stone. It included images of a flying radio and speakers growing like flowers out of the ground.
Illinois protested in court that Reynolds' ads in Rolling Stone, its website and a live concert violated the cartoon ban.
The state also complained that Reynolds should have told Rolling Stone not to use cartoons in a five-page editorial section on independent music, right beside the Camel Farm ad.
Though the trial court ruled in favor of Reynolds, stating that the ads did not portray the powers of a superhero, Illinois prevailed in the Chicago-based First District Illinois Court of Appeals.
"An eagle flying with a hand protruding from a picture frame clutched in the eagle's claws is 'unnatural' because it varies from what is normal or expected," Judge David Sterba wrote for the court.
"Moreover, the images of radios, speakers and a television, which have a unifying trait of emitting sound, are also 'unnatural,'" he added. "In the advertisement, radios, speakers and a television are each placed on a plant stem to resemble flowers and to be representatives of seedlings rising from the underground."
The court also ruled, however, that the images on the website and the concert did not violate the cartoon ban.
While the case must return to court for a determination of attorneys' fees, Reynolds will not have to pay a $6.5 million sanction, which Sterba wrote was properly denied by the trial court.