It's understandable that Gov. Chris Gregoire would be taking a vocal stand against the new Camel marketing campaign--called "Break Free Adventure"--which features a Seattle-themed cigarette pack. Gregoire, after all, built her career warring against the tobacco companies as state attorney general.
It was under Gregoire, you might recall, that the state-funded Washington State Tourism Office ginned up the legendary "Say WA" campaign of 2006, which made us the laughing stock of the nation. The following year, Gregoire got legislation passed that created a new tourism commission and devoted millions more dollars to promoting Washington among the traveling public.
Let's look at those efforts, as they're currently configured, and compare them to how well the Camel pack is promoting our state:
Our current tag is "Washington: The State." Yes, that's trademarked, apparently. You certainly can't fault that one for being risky or hard to understand. It's also about as inspiring as "Harry Potter: The Exhibition" (currently up at the Pacific Science Center!).
We understand officials in Virginia are so impressed, they're thinking of abandoning "Virginia is for lovers" in favor of "Virginia: The Commonwealth." The World Cup selection committee was swayed by "Qatar: The Emirate." The Guam Visitor's Bureau may soon opt for "Guam: Unincorporated Organized Territory."
And there's the slogan: "What's Your Excellent Washington State Adventure?" We grant you that the Camel pack calling Seattle the "home of grunge" may be a little cringe-inducing and out-of-date, but Washington's own taxpayer-funded team of crackerjack marketers is making a play here on a movie that's older than Nevermind. And less fondly remembered.
And then there's the ad copy: "Do you dream of majestic peaks, captivating sunsets, or a stroll through a quiet vineyard?" Frankly, we think the evocative lines from RJ Reynolds--about rain, "Gold Rush ancestors," and "the smell of vinyl in that hidden record store"--do a much better job of capturing the Northwest and inspiring a visit than the state's own generic, treacly crap.
We also can't help noticing that the (obviously Photoshopped) pair of adventurers in the idyllic image above are tromping their way off the trail and through a sensitive wetland in one of the most fragile parts of Mt. Rainier National Park--Reflection Lake. Way to encourage destructive behaviors among our youth, ExperienceWA.org!
Bottom line: RJ Reynolds is putting well-conceived promotional material about our city and state into the hands of a key demographic group--people who can still afford to smoke. How much is this free advertising worth--hundreds of thousands of dollars? Instead of getting outraged, this campaign is something our cash-strapped state should be getting behind, while these smokers are still breathing and free to travel.