Big Tobacco’s Still Puffing

It was 2004, and Brown & Williamson’s marketing department had a runaway hit on its hands. For six years, the tobacco brand had been hosting battle-of-the-DJ events at nightclubs in major cities, and B&W was about to go even bigger. That year’s turntable battle, called the Kool Mixx, would be a 14-city tour. Limited-edition packs of cigarettes, adorned with splashy renderings of hip-hop artists and gyrating dancers, were sold nationally at retail. Field teams distributed “Soundtrack to the Streets” CDs and CD-ROMs, and the hosted mixing software and an online DJ competition. B&W had plugged into the downtown vibe in a way that most brands only dream of, and the house was on fire.

Then suddenly, the needle skipped off the record. While young urbanites were doing their thing on the dance floor, a team of attorneys general from New York, Illinois and Maryland had been strutting their own stuff