ATLANTA - Hoping to associate its Winston cigarettes with the "low-down, hard-stompin', railroad-smokin' blues," R.J. Reynolds is the sole advertiser of a special blues section in Rolling Stone's 30th anniversary issue.
Long Haymes Carr (LHC) in the client's hometown of Winston-Salem, N.C., created the eight-page insert, which features photographs of blues musicians and copy blurbs that tell each performer's story.
"It ties to the [Winston] campaign idea of 'No Bull,' " said LHC vice chairman, chief creative officer Jim White. "We wanted to do something that would be authentic . . . versus just running a bunch of ads saying, 'Blues are cool and so are we.' "
Typical of major projects at the agency, White employed his "jump ball" system, where the entire creative staff ponies up concepts. In this case, it was art director and copywriter Mike Foley's idea of focusing on "real" blues artists that found its way into production.
Foley's muse was Tim Duffy, founder of Music Maker Relief Foundation, a low-profile group that works to preserve the music and history of forgotten blues artists. Duffy provided the photos used in the insert and the stories behind those images. (RJR made a contribution to the organization.)
One such anecdote in the May 28 print insert tells of Willa Mae Buckner, or Snake Lady, "a traveling tent show performer" who learned piano at 21 and guitar at 35 and "stripped at midnight rambles."
A small, stylized Winston logo is the only mention of the brand on each spread. The last page adds the line: "Real blues. Real tobacco. Straight up."
Ned Leary, vice president of RJR's Winston business unit, thinks the print effort taps into the "essence" of the brand's positioning: "It's putting your product where your mouth is."
RJR has certainly put its money where its product is. Competitive Media Reporting tracked 1997 ad spending for Winston at $35.2 million, up from $4.2 million in 1996.