A Resemblance Argument: Joe Camel vs. the Trix Rabbit

17 Nov

The other day in my composition class, I was trying to explain resemblance arguments to my students.  (A resemblance argument is one in which you compare two like circumstances to suggest that if an action had a specific outcome in one instance/place, it can be expected to follow a similar pattern in your circumstance.) They are all writing subject-specific proposal arguments, and I was trying to demonstrate that a resemblance argument can come from a different subject, if there is a logical connection.

As an example, I explained that a person proposing that Congress regulate the avertisement of junk food to kids could draw a resemblance argument to the regulation of similar advertisements from the tobacco industry. That when such regulation was initially proposed, the tobacco industry was furious, but that once we were honest about the negative consequences of smoking, and once the regulation had been imposed, society came to accept this as the right thing to do. That no one these days would suggest that regulating cigarette marketing to children was a bad idea.

And my students balked. They were livid at the notion that someone would suggest something as ridiculous as a parallel between Tony the Tiger and Joe Camel.

So today, a present a resemblance argument of my own, in true comp-teacher stylings, with visual rhetoric included!

Tobacco Industry Marketing to Children

An advertisement targeted to kids:

Remember that in the early 90s, backwards baseball caps were cool...

Proof the ad was successful at reaching its target audience:

  • Children and adolescents are more than twice as likely to smoke the three most heavily advertised brands (Marlboro, Camel, and Newport.)
  • Youth consumption of Camels increased markedly with the launch of the Joe Camel advertising campaign. Thirteen percent of smokers under age 18 smoked Camels in 1993, compared with two to three percent before the campaign began in 1988.
  • Promotional items, which provide free advertising with no warning labels, often end up in the hands of children. A 1992 Gallup poll found that half of all adolescent smokers and one-quarter of adolescent non-smokers owned at least one tobacco promotional item. A 1993 survey found that almost seventy percent of adolescent smokers, and almost thirty percent of adolescent non-smokers, participated in promotional programs for tobacco products.
  • A study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute suggests that tobacco advertisements and promotions are as strong or stronger than peer pressure in encouraging young people to smoke.

Health risk of the product being advertised:

Probably doesn’t need to be stated for cigarettes at this point. In general, you know, cancers of the lungs, mouth, throat; emphysema and death, among others.

Industry response to regulation of this advertising:

First, the tobacco companies tried to pre-empt regulation by adopting their own voluntary guidelines for regulation.

When that didn’t stop President Clinton for pushing for the reform, the nation’s five largest tobacco companies filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court in Greensboro, North Carolina, to block the FDA’s rulemaking procedure.

Result of government outcome:

  • A favorable opinion of the changes by the general public — 83.1 percent of adults surveyed in 1996 (just a year after the legislation passed) believe that images such as Joe Camel should not be in magazines read by kids.
  • Teen smoking began declining in the late 1990s, and has continued to decrease since then (although, recently, the bad-image from these marketing discussions has worn off and rates are beginning to stabilize again).

Food Industry Marketing to Kids

An advertisement targeted to kids:

Visit trixworld.com and see if you can find the "warning" that kids are supposed to spot to acknowledge this is even advertising...

Proof the ad was successful at reaching its target audience:

  • Nearly a third of American youngsters eat fast food on any given day, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics
  • According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one in six children and teenagers are obese — up three-fold from a generation ago.
  • Dr. Victory Strasburger of AAP:  “Just by banning ads for fast food, one study says we could decrease obesity and overweight by 17 percent.”

Health risk of the product being advertised:

According to the CDC, more than 13,000 cases of Type II diabetes are diagnosed in children under the age of 20 each year.

Industry response to regulation of this advertising:

First, food companies tried to pre-empt regulation by adopting their own voluntary guidelines for regulation.

Now that the FDA has issued a proposed set of voluntary guidelinesto regulate advertising, food companies are increasing their lobbying budget on this issue, including $2.98 million from the Grocery Manufactuer’s Association and and the $2.1 million from the National Restaurant Association. So far. This year.

Result of government intervention:


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