Philip Morris & Co. (now Altria) had originally introduced the Marlboro brand as a woman’s cigarette in 1924. Starting in the early 1950s, the cigarette industry began to focus on promoting filtered cigarettes, as a response to the emerging scientific data about harmful effects of smoking. 3 Under the false impression that filtered cigarettes were safer, 4 Marlboro, as well as other brands, started to be sold with filters. However, filtered cigarettes, Marlboro in particular, were considered to be women s cigarettes. 5 During market research in the 1950s, men indicated that while they would consider switching to a filtered cigarette, they were concerned about being seen smoking a cigarette marketed to women. 6
The repositioning of Marlboro as a men’s cigarette was handled by Chicago advertiser Leo Burnett. Most filtered cigarette advertising sought to make claims about the technology behind the filter through the use of complex terminology and scientific claims regarding the filter, the cigarette industry wanted to ease fears about the harmful effects of cigarette smoking through risk reduction. However, Leo Burnett decided to address the growing fears through an entirely different approach creating ads completely void of health concerns or health claims of the filtered cigarette. Burnett felt that making claims about the effectiveness of filters furthered concerns of the long term effects of smoking. Thus, refusing to respond to health claims matched the emergent, masculine image of the New Marlboro. citation needed
The proposed campaign was to present a lineup of manly figures sea captains, weightlifters, war correspondents, construction workers, etc. The cowboy was to have been the first in this series. 6 Burnett’s inspiration for the exceedingly masculine “Marlboro Man” icon came in 1949 from an issue of LIFE magazine, whose photograph (shot by Leonard McCombe) and story of Texas cowboy Clarence Hailey Long caught his attention. 7 Within a year, Marlboro’s market share rose from less than one percent to the fourth best selling brand. This convinced Philip Morris to drop the lineup of manly figures and stick with the cowboy. 6 In the mid fifties, the cowboy image was popularized by actor Paul Birch in 3 page magazine ads and in TV ads.
Using another approach to expand the Marlboro Man market base, Philip Morris felt the prime market was post adolescent kids who were just beginning to smoke as a way of declaring their independence from their parents. 8
When the new Marlboro Country theme opened in late 1963, the actors utilized as Marlboro Man were replaced, for the most part, with real working cowboys. “In 1963, at the 6 6 6 6 Ranch in Guthrie, Texas, they discovered Carl “Big un” Bradley. He was the first real cowboy they used, and from then on the lead Marlboro men were real cowboys, rodeo riders, stuntmen.” 9 10 Another of this new breed of real cowboys was Max Bryan “Turk” Robinson, of Hugo, Oklahoma Turk says that he was recruited for the role while at a rodeo simply standing around behind the chutes, as was the custom for cowboys who had not yet ridden their event. It took only a few years for the results to register. By 1972, the new Marlboro Man would have had so much market appeal that Marlboro cigarettes were catapulted to the top of the tobacco industry. citation needed
Finding the Marlboro Man edit
Initially, commercials involving the Marlboro Man featured paid models, such as William Thourlby, 11 pretending to carry out cowboy tasks. However, Burnett felt that the commercials lacked authenticity, as it was apparent that the subjects were not real cowboys and did not have the desired rugged look. One of the finest was a non smoking rodeo cowboy, Max Bryan “Turk” Robinson, who was recruited at a rodeo. (Robinson lives in Hugo, Oklahoma and is alive and well as of February 2, 2014.) Leo Burnett was not satisfied with the cowboy actors found. Broadway and MGM movie actor Christian Haren won the role as the first Marlboro Man in the early 1960s as he looked the part. Burnett then came across Darrell Winfield, who worked on a ranch. Leo Burnett s creative director was awed when he first saw Winfield I had seen cowboys, but I had never seen one that just really, like, he sort of scared the hell out of me (as he was so much a real cowboy). Winfield s immediate authenticity led to his 20 year run as the Marlboro Man, which lasted until the late 1980s. Upon Winfield s retirement, Philip Morris reportedly spent $300 million searching for a new Marlboro Man. 12 13
After appearing as the Marlboro Man in 1987 advertising, former rodeo cowboy Brad Johnson landed a lead role in Steven Spielberg’s feature film Always (1989), with Holly Hunter and Richard Dreyfuss. 14
The use of the Marlboro Man campaign had very significant and immediate effects on sales. In 1955, when the Marlboro Man campaign was started, sales were at $5 billion. By 1957, sales were at $20 billion, representing a 300% increase within two years. Philip Morris easily overcame growing health concerns through the Marlboro Man campaign, highlighting the success as well as the tobacco industry s strong ability to use mass marketing to influence consumers. 15
The immediate success of the Marlboro Man campaign led to heavy imitation. Old Golds adopted the tagline marking it a cigarette for “independent thinkers”. Chesterfield depicted cowboy and other masculine occupations to match their tagline “Men of America” smoke Chesterfields. 16
Four men who claimed to have appeared in Marlboro related advertisements Wayne McLaren, David McLean, Dick Hammer and Eric Lawson 17 died of smoking related diseases, thus earning Marlboro cigarettes, specifically Marlboro Reds, the nickname “Cowboy killers”. 18 McLaren testified in favor of anti smoking legislation at the age of 51. During the time of McLaren’s anti smoking activism, Philip Morris denied that McLaren ever appeared in a Marlboro ad, a position it later amended to maintain that while he did appear in ads, he was not the Marlboro Man Winfield held that title. In response, McLaren produced an affidavit from a talent agency that had represented him, along with a pay check stub, asserting he had been paid for work on a “Marlboro print” job. 19 McLaren died before his 52nd birthday in 1992. 20 21
Eric Lawson, the fourth man to portray the smoking cowboy, who appeared in Marlboro print ads from 1978 to 1981, died at the age of 72 on January 10, 2014, of respiratory failure due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD. A smoker since age 14, Lawson later appeared in an anti smoking commercial that parodied the Marlboro Man, and also in an Entertainment Tonight segment to discuss the negative effects of smoking. 22
There is also a fifth claimant to the Marlboro Man title. In The Cowboy and His Elephant, written by Malcolm MacPherson, which is ostensibly a biography of Norris and mainly focuses on his raising an elephant on his ranch, MacPherson describes how Bob Norris came to be photographed for Life magazine and become the Marlboro Man for the next 12 years (pp. 63 67). The back cover to the book also cites Norris as the Marlboro Man.
In many countries, the Marlboro Man is an icon of the past due to increasing pressure on tobacco advertising for health reasons, especially where the practice of smoking appears to be celebrated or glorified. The deaths described above may also have made it more difficult to use the campaign without attracting negative comment. The Marlboro Man image continued until at least the early 2000s, in countries such as Germany and the Czech Republic. 23 It still continues in Japan (on tobacco vending machines, for example), where smoking is widespread in the male population.
Death in the West edit
File:marlboro cigarettes (spain) – front.jpg – wikimedia commons
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