Saturday, February 8, 2014

Caution: Cigarette Smoking is Hazardous to the Health of the Marlboro Man

Caution: Cigarette Smoking is Hazardous to the Health of the Marlboro Man The warning label was clear: “Caution: Cigarette Smoking May be Hazardous to Your Health. ” The Marlboro Man did not heed it. Eric Lawson died last month from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the fifth Marlboro Man to die from cigarette related illnesses. Philip Morris had a problem six decades ago. Its filter cigarette, Marlboro, was selling poorly in competition with five other brands. It had less than 1% of the market as it was marketed to women. Filtered cigarettes were marketed as safer than the non-filters. Leo Burnett, the ad agency in Chicago, had an idea. Change Marlboro to a cigarette for men, real men. Ignore the health effects of cigarettes. A cowboy would be the first Marlboro Man, and the last. A print ad was published in the Chicago area in 1954, followed quickly by a national rollout. The national campaign featured TV ads, print ads, and billboards, such as the famous oversized billboard on Sunset Boulevard. Philip Morris also tinkered with the taste and nicotine level of Marlboro, to make it both more tasty and addictive. The final marketing stroke was to acquire Elmer’ Bernstein’s theme song in the successful movie, the Magnificent Seven. The rugged cowboy and the gripping theme in the captivating West grabbed our attention as few other ads ever have. The Marlboro Man became perhaps the most successful advertising campaign in history. 18 million Marlboros were sold in 1954, but jumped to 6.4 billion in 1955.19.5 billion Marlboros were sold two years later in 1957. Marlboro became the best selling cigarette in 1972. Philip Morris never looked back as it became the world’s largest cigarette company. The Marlboro Man left American Tobacco, R J Reynolds, Brown & Williamson, and Liggett & Myers in his dust. Philip Morris started with male models, pilots and other “real men” to portray the Marlboro Man, but then settled on authenticity - real cowboys. The Marlboro cowboys smoked the product. Eric Lawson smoked up to 3 packs a day until he was diagnosed in 2006 with COPD. Several tobacco execs also died from cigarette smoking, which can be viewed as poetic justice. Several of the Marlboro Men saw the light as they suffered from tobacco diseases and testified or prepared public service announcements against cigarette smoking. The Marlboro Man had a long advertising life, from 1954-1999. It’s toll still lives on. Wayne McLaren, David McLean, and Dick Hammer died from lung cancer, David Millar from emphysema, and Eric Lawson from COPD.

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