Retrotisements — Marlboro Cigarettes

Yeah, I know that most of the old ads I post have to do with cigarettes. For some reason I have always been fascinated by cigarette advertising. I guess part of it is that these types of ads might have been some of the first to market a lifestyle as much as a product. I mean sure, they all talked about the “flavor” and even the reduced tar levels — ignoring the point that they had any tar at all — but what it really boiled down to was that these companies had to find a way to make a smoke inhalation device seem appealing. Watching them find ways to rise to the challenge has always interested me. Oreos pretty much sell themselves after all. Same with beer and cars. But flammable paper tubes that allow you to suck on hot smoke? Now that takes marketing acumen.

Marlboro is of course synonymous with rugged masculinity. Who doesn’t know the Marlboro Man after all? But what many people don’t know is that prior to his arrival, Marlboro was marketed almost exclusively to women. The featured slogan “Mild As May” was used starting in the mid-1920s, and as you can see the ads were quite feminine:

So miiiild….

Proving that they had your beauty in mind, Marlboros even featured red tips designed to hide lipstick marks:

Marlboro Beauty Tips

A particularly…um, interesting print campaign involving babies (yes, babies) was even employed at one point:

So creepy

Yeah, they just went there.

I’d love to be able to claim I created those last two in Photoshop, but sadly they are all too real. Marlboro actually used infants to sell cigarettes to mothers. I think once you’ve reached this point as an ad writer you’ve pretty much admitted that you would sell your mom’s kidneys on the black market to make a buck. Remember these the next time you read about how evil Joe Camel was.

Despite their somewhat novel marketing angle, however, by the mid-1950s Marlboro was getting trounced in the marketplace by decidedly more masculine brands such as Lucky Strike, Camel, and Chesterfield. So in rode the Marlboro Man, and the rest is advertising history.

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