You've Come a Long Way, Stanley | Our Town | Chicago Reader

You've Come a Long Way, Stanley 

Introducing Milties, the Cigarette of the Future

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Vowing to push ahead despite recent setbacks in marketing its new cigarette brands, Uptown and Dakota, to blacks and blue-collar women respectively, R.J. Reynolds announced today that it has developed a new brand for yet another target audience: Stanley Milton, a 34-year-old real estate developer living in Skokie.

The cigarettes, named Milties, feature Mr. Milton's picture on the pack.

"After exhaustive demographic studies," an RJR spokesperson, Lynda Burke, announced, "we have come up with the last person in America who we believe is 'protest proof': Stanley Milton is white, male, educated, and affluent. He already smokes, and what's more, he's aware of its presumed health hazard. Furthermore, he's indicated to friends he doesn't believe cigarette manufacturers are liable for damages in lawsuits from smokers who develop cancer."

Asked whether marketing a brand to a single person indicated a substantial decline in RJR's fortunes, the spokesperson angrily disagreed. "We think it has great potential. Milton smokes a lot of cigarettes."

When reporters reacted skeptically, Burke added, "He's young, about to get married, and our research indicates he plans on having three children, all of whom we hope will turn into smokers. Add in Milton's extended family and friends and the business associates who admire him, and you have all the makings of a monster brand.

"Besides," Ms. Burke continued, "our marketing costs are way down. Instead of spending hundreds of millions advertising in magazines, we just slip an ad under Milton's door twice a week. Our distribution costs are fractionalized, too. Rather than shipping cartons all over the country, one of our workers drops off a few packs to Milton's favorite smoke shop, a few more at a bar he frequents, and a couple more at a bowling alley he attends once a week.

"We believe this is the wave of the future. People today think of themselves as individuals. Our products have to reflect that feeling."

The company has added several personal touches, including inserting a birthday card inside a pack on Milton's birthday, and printing his daily "to do" list on the side of the pack.

"Our hope is that whenever he checks his schedule, he'll reach for a Miltie," Burke said.

Insiders say that RJR has been angered by its recent marketing setbacks, and that Milties are an attempt to regain the offensive. An official who refused to be identified said, "When other smokers see Milton lighting up a brand with his own name on it, they're going to wonder, 'Hey, how come that jerk warrants his own cigarette? What about me?' Before you know it, smokers around the country will be demanding their own personalized brands, and we'll be there waiting.

"Eventually we'll get to the point where Etta Jones, an unemployed black woman in Louisiana, will have a cigarette named for her. Can you imagine the uproar when protest groups cry 'Exploitation!' and Etta calls a press conference and says, 'All you people telling me I can't have my own cigarette--shut up! It's the first thing I've had named after me in my life!' We'll be equal-opportunity heroes!"

Marketing a cigarette to a specific individual, though, requires great attention to detail. R.J. Reynolds employs one worker full-time whose job is unearthing Milton's movements. "If he goes on a business trip to New York, we want a few packs in the airline gift shop there to greet him," Ms. Burke said. Last year, when Mr. Milton started dating a woman who didn't smoke, researchers got nervous. "We planted nasty rumors about her," Burke says, "and broke that up real fast."

When asked for his reaction to having a major cigarette manufacturer marketing a brand specifically for him, Milton shrugged and said, "I'm flattered by the attention, but I'm going to stick to my Marlboros."

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