1959 Tobacco Campaign Essay Paper

1959 Tobacco Campaign
1959 Tobacco Campaign

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1959 Tobacco Campaign 

Literature and Critique on the 1959 Tobacco Campaign in the United States


Tobacco advertising campaign used the Marlboro man as a figure to represent the Marlboro cigarettes. This icon figure was used in the United States from 1954 to 1999. In 1954 Leo Burnett Worldwide was the first advertising firm to conceive the Marlboro man. The Marlboro man was an image which comprised of rugged cowboys with a cigarette. Such advertisements were initially introduced to make the filtered cigarettes more popular which were originally considered to be feminine in nature (Amos and Haglund, 2000).

This advert was considered to be one of the most successful and brilliant promotional campaigns of all times. The feminine campaign was transformed using the slogan “Mild as May” in a very short time into a masculine advert. The cowboys proved to be more popular when used as Marlboro men despite there being a variety of other men who could be used as Marlboro men. The popularity of the advert led into the origin of ‘Marlboro country’ and ‘Marlboro cowboy’. This essay will offer a critique of the Marlboro advertisement campaign; both the positive and negative effects of the promotion in United States.

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1959 Tobacco Campaign 

Origin of the Campaign

The Marlboro brand was first initiated as cigarettes for women in 1924 by Philip Morris & Co. owing to the harmful effects of smoking established by scientific in 1950 the cigarette industry shifted their attention to filtered cigarettes. Nevertheless, Marlboro filtered cigarettes was presumed to be women’s brands and therefore Leo Burnett the advertising executive had to look for a different image  have an appeal to a larger market.

Consequentially, the firm noticed that there were some emerging trends among the teenagers who wanted to declare their autonomy from their parents through smoking. As a result of this discovery the firm had had to focus their attention to this group of consumers. 

Though scientific questions were posed concerning the contents of the filters the advertising executive reasoned that it was meant to reduce the harmful effects. With this stand he completely refused to respond to health claims of smoking Marlboro brand of cigarettes. Burnett continued to be inspired into creating an icon figure of Marlboro man and as a result the icon came in 1949 to represent masculine icon (Buckley, 1982).

The Texas cowboy- Clarence Hailey Long story came to his attention in an issue of life magazine where the new Marlboro now represented images of other masculine occupations such as gunsmiths, sea captains and athletes tough more attention was placed on the cowboy image as the Marlboro man (Thomas, 1991).

1959 Tobacco Campaign

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Marlboro man icon 

Owing to the failure of the paid models of Marlboro men who lacked authenticity, Burnett came across a cowboy actor Darrell Winfield working as a cowboy on a ranch. Darrell Winfield represented Marlboro man for a period of 20 years until 1980 when he retired (Sanz and Johnson, 1990). So much was spent looking for another icon of Marlboro where another figure came up by the name Brad Johnson in 1987 (Marken and Anzeigen, 1975).

Success or Failure of the advert

Quite a substantial amount of sales were recorded due to the immediate effect of the Marlboro man Campaign (Moellinger and Craig, 1972). The sales skyrocketed from $5 billion in 1955 when the Marlboro man campaign was conceived to $ 20 billion by 1957 which was quite significant representing 300% increase in a span of two years only!

The rising health concerns were overcome through the Marlboro Man campaign as the advertising campaign focused more on the success (Barry, 1997). Eventually heavy imitation was observed with use of Marlboro Man where other executives invented new taglines such as “independent thinkers”, “Men of America” in relation to smoking Marlboro brands (Schudson, 1984).

It is however discerning to notice that all the three men who made appearances in the Marlboro promotions succumbed to lung cancer. These were; David McLean, Wayne McLaren, and Dick Hammer.  The Marlboro Brands of cigarettes were branded as ‘cowboy Killers’. As a matter of fact McLaren had to testify in support of anti-smoking legislation, nevertheless, Philip Morris refuted the claims that McLaren ever appeared in the Marlboro Man campaign. Before his 52nd birthday in 1992 McLaren succumbed to lung cancer. 

1959 Tobacco Campaign

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Various concerns raised in America on Marlboro Man campaign

Various activists came up to oppose the use of Marlboro Man campaign and launched anti-smoking. The World Health organization claims if unchecked there will be a death rise due to cigarette smoking to 10 million people per year from 4 million reported yearly cases. Though the consumers were fully aware of the harmful effects of cigarette smoking they continue to smoke owing to the effects of the Marlboro Man campaign (Rollin, 1997)).

It was and it is still quite alarming that the number of lawsuits and damages claimed are in billions of dollars including numerous files opened of Philip Morris owing to the advertisement especially in Florida and Minnesota’s States (Henry, 2007).

Eventually, the sales in Marlboro brands recorded a huge drop due to imposition of government restrictions on cigarette advertisement. The marketing approach for the brands had to shift their strategies. Hence Philip Morris changed to negotiations strategies with the relevant authorities into reducing the smoking habits (Michael, 2000)

1959 Tobacco Campaign

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Despite the change of tactics for the Marlboro Man campaign, much is needed to be done concerning tobacco adverts by Marlboro brands. The campaigns have changed into making smokers to have a lifelong of smoking. In spite of the growing health concerns in relation to smoking, many people have continued to use the Marlboro brands because they want to be seen like real men. The ladies want to feel a sense of independence; the teenagers want to show a sign of rebellion to their parents by smoking Marlboro brands.

The menace of smoking cannot be put to a stop if the anti-smoking campaign does not begin at the grassroots level through sensitizing of youth and other smoking against smoking. The government has a big role to play as observed through exercising of strict anti-smoking campaigns in the United States and completely banning any form of promotion for Marlboro brands and other brands as they have proved to more influential.


Amos, A. & Haglund, M. (2000), from social taboo to torch of freedom: the marketing of  Cigarettes to womenTobacco Control, 9, 3-8

Barry, A. M. (1997). Visual Intelligence: Perception, Image and Manipulation in Visual Communications, Albany: State University of New York Press.

Bernard E. Rollin, (1997), Harley-Davidson and philosophy: full-throttle Aristotle, Open Court Publishing

Buckley, K. W. (1982). The selling of a psychologist: John Broadus Watson and the application Of behavioral techniques to advertisingJournal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 18(3), 207-221

Cynthia Sanz, Kristina Johnson, (1990), an Ex-Marlboro Man Who Can Really Ride, Brad Johnson Adds Sigh Appeal to Always, People’s Magazine, vol. 33 no 7

Heiße Marken, Coole Anzeigen, (1975), Come to Marlboro Country”1975 US ad campaign, Brand Hot

Kevin Thomas, (1991), MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Harley Davidson, Marlboro’ . . . Lively but Ludicrous, Los Angeles Times

Michael Schudson (1984), Advertising, the Uneasy Persuasion: It’s Dubious Impact on American Society, New York: Basic Books, p. xiii and p 45.

Moellinger, T., & Craig, S. (n.d.). (1972) “So Rich, So Mild, So Fresh“: A Critical Look at TV Cigarette Commercials: 1948-1971.

Neil Henry, (2007) American Carnival: Journalism under Siege in an Age of New Media University of California Press

Schudson, Michael. (2000). Advertising as capitalist realismAdvertising & Society Review 1(1), 

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