Camel, Rolling Stone Under Fire for Indie Rock Ad
Cigarette company pulls campaign after class action suit

You don't see creepy Joe Camel anymore these days, and that's because he-- and any cartoon used to sell cigarettes-- has been made illegal, thanks to the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement of 1997 (Google it).

Yet if you scooped up a copy of the November 15 issue of Rolling Stone, you probably did see a four-page fold-out editorial section titled "Indie Rock Universe", rife with faux notebook doodles, ridiculous music/cosmology puns (Lost in Bass! Planet Twee!), and the names of pretty much every huge-to-marginally popular indie/indie-ish act you can think of. Laughable at best, but harmless-- were it not for the item's placement in the publication.

"Indie Rock Universe" fell amid several pages of advertisements for Camel cigarettes' "The Farm" campaign. The Farm's tagline? "Committed to Supporting & Promoting Independent Record Labels". Coincidence? Rolling Stone would have you think so, according to a New York Times report linked via The Daily Swarm. Publisher Ray Chelstowski, quoted in the NY Times piece, claims Camel's parent company R.J. Reynolds Tobacco "had no idea [the Indie Rock Universe piece] would take a cartoon format." Likewise, "the editors don't see the advertising."

Yet that plea of ignorance hasn't stopped Rolling Stone-- and, of course, Camel-- from drawing the ire of everyone from anti-smoking advocates and promoters of journalistic ethics to fans and the indie rockers themselves.

Amid increasing pressure and a lawsuit filed this week by nine state attorneys general, Reynolds has, for the moment, ceased the Farm campaign, according to a Winston-Salem Journal report (also via The Daily Swarm). Indeed, the campaign's website is presently down. The Journal also suggests Reynolds could face a fine of up to $100 million for violating the Master Settlement Agreement.

Still under debate are Camel-sponsored gigs, a number of which have popped up in recent years featuring big name indie acts like the Flaming Lips, Band of Horses, and the Faint. Camel has no plans to discontinue these right now, according to the Journal.

Meanwhile, Rolling Stone has come under fire from bloggers and message board pundits who believe the publication complicit in an alleged scheme to dupe lovers of indie rock. If some breach of ethics surrounding the advertorial/editorial divide is discovered, Rolling Stone could find itself in what we like to call the "Nasty Litigation Universe". (Regardless, it's pretty funny that this list is probably the only way that many of these bands would have ever appeared in Rolling Stone.)

Still, the greatest crime in all this may be the puns. "Lost in Bass"?!? C'mon, people!

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