How Marlboro Cigarettes Have Been Advertised

Posted: November 28, 2011 in Advertising
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Phillip Morris' "Marlboro Man"

Phillip Morris' "Marlboro Man"

Innovation helped promote the first cigarettes. The first was a cigarette-making machine which was introduced in the 1880’s.  This machine dramatically increased the production of cigarettes instead of the forty-million hand rolled cigarettes a day, one machine could produce four-million cigarettes a day. The second development came in late 1870’s with the invention of the lithography.  These advertising cards were placed in premium packages of cigarettes and helped to strengthen the brands identity by depicting movies stars and famous athletes.  These cards became collectibles.

During WWII, tobacco companies gave out free nicotine-addictive cigarettes to soldiers.  When these soldiers returned home, the soldiers sought out these products because they literally needed the nicotine fix they had grown accustomed to.  That, along with companies such as Phillip Morris, aggressively promoted the cigarettes.

One of the most successful advertising done in the past two centuries has been the use of  The “Marlboro Man.” Created in 1955 by Leo Burnett, it has been used successfully by the Phillip Morris company to promote its most world famous cigarette.

The creation of the “Marlboro Man” in advertising Marlboro cigarettes was initiated because Phillip Morris wanted an edgier image for its cigarette. From the 1920’s till the mid-50’s, the cigarette brand was considered a ‘mild as May,’ a ladies cigarette.  The cigarette used a red band around its filter to hide lipstick stains. They used the phase, “beauty tips to keep the paper from your lips.”

Children used to Appeal to Women

Children & Mommy & Marlboro's

Marlboro used to Appeal to Women

Marlboro used to Appeal to Women

In the mid-50’s Phillip Morris wanted to expand the brand to a broader audience.

The first original newspaper ad that Burnett created for Phillip Morris used the slogan, ‘delivers the goods on flavor.’  This initial ad had a significant impact on sales of Marlboro.

One of the first Marlboro TV commercials pre-“Marlboro Man” featuring a ‘tough guy.’

One of the reasons why Phillip Morris wanted to switch their adverting focus to an image of ‘tough men’ was that a few years later in 1957, when Reader’s Digest printed its first article on the link between cigarette smoking and cancer, the “Marlboro Man” advertisement kept the brand selling; over $20 billion in that year.  It kept attracting new smokers of both genders.  Phillip Morris used the rugged men image to counter the claims that cigarettes were harmful; using imagery of tough men who could care less about harmful side effects of cigarettes.

However, with the creation of the “Marlboro Man” in 1955, sales were at $5 billion.  This was a 3,241% spike in sales from the year before, 1954.

Burnett also created other gritty images aside from the “Marlboro Man.”  Rugged guys with tattoos, race car drivers and ball players were also used to further the rough image Phillip Morris was trying to convey.

With the successful of the “Marlboro Man,” Phillip Morris gave the cowboy a revived look.  He was reposition this time in a mystical land called, “Marlboro Country.”

While cigarettes ads were banned from TV and radio in 1971, the print ads of the “Marlboro Man” along with the preceding TV ads helped place Marlboro as the number one selling taboo brand.

Marlboro “commercial” by John Lennon & George Harrison.

While the above Beatles commercial was not an actual advertised commercial, it did give Marlboro a lot of media attention.

Phillip Morris has successfully used tough man images to promote Marlboro.  In 1972 it began to sponsor motor racing with a Formula One team.

Marlboro Sponsored Racing Cars

Marlboro Sponsored Racing Cars

Marlboro began to also sponsor a world class driver, Scuderia Ferrari, whose now infamous Ferrari cars bare his name.  In September 2005, Ferrari signed an extension of their sponsorship arrangement with Marlboro until 2011.  This has come a time when tobacco sponsorship has become wholly illegal in the European Unions’ driving races.  However, since 2008, Marlboro cannot use its full image on these motor cars any longer.  They have resorted to using a variety of subliminal barcodes instead.

Subliminal Marlboro Barcodes on Racing Cars

Subliminal Marlboro Barcodes on Racing Cars

As of 2010, pressure from the European Commissioner of Health has led to the removal of the barcodes on the racing cars themselves.  However, the barcodes remain on the drivers’ team gear.

Since June 2009, cigarette products are now under the strict watchful eye of the Food and Drug Administration, the FDA.  Under the FDA, tobacco companies such as Phillip Morris are compelled to eliminate misleading advertisement.  For instance, cigarettes brands are no longer allowed to label their products, “light” or “mild.”

Today, cigarette manufacturers have to adhere to stringent government regulated advertising.  What is allowed are magazine ads as long as they include the Surgeon Generals’ Warning.  The magazine can only include the ad if it’s geared to adults who are 21 years and older.  No advertising can be done on Universities, Colleges or other schools.

Cigarette advertisements can be placed in facilities where adults gather, where no children or teenagers under the age of 21 can be admitted. Cigarette and tobacco ads can be placed in a retail establishment as long as it is not displayed on the back or front of any windows.

While manufactures like Phillip Morris were able to use billboards as long as they had the Surgeon Generals’ Warning printed on the billboard as well,  after the 1999 tobacco settlement, all cigarettes billboard advertising were replaced by anti-smoking ads only. Placing more pressure on cigarette manufactures to increase their cigarette advertisement in other formats and in other media.

Just a few years ago, some producers in Hollywood would take large payments to place cigarettes in movies.  Phillip Morris even placed its products in, astoundingly, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” and in “The Muppet Movie.” When stars are seen smoking, it significantly influences teenagers to smoke. Cigarette manufactures count on teens to develop their life-long cigarette smoking habit.

Because of industry pressure, where actors in movies used to smoke, most producers of films forgo smoking unless the characters that the actors are portraying are truly needed to smoke in order to enhance a certain characteristic of the particular character.

Manufacturers of cigarettes are allowed by the FDA to place their ads in theaters, videos, TV and games for adult only facilities.  Ads may be placed in videos as long as the videos will not be distributed into the general public.

Phillip Morris for years has promoted Marlboro to consumers directly at live venues.  These live events are called “The Marlboro Party.”

Through GMR Marketing in Milwaukee Wisconsin, Marlboro products are displayed and promoted at live venues such as bars, night clubs and other events where adults gather.  GMR hires an event manager who oversees a team of 7-15 people.  These people, called promoters, gather at the venue before the crowd arrives.   They are dressed in black pants and black shoes or black sneakers.  They wear a red Marlboro t-shirt as well as a red Marlboro baseball cap. They decorate the venue with Marlboro banners, spot lights, paper napkins, balloons, etc. all with the Marlboro logo.

Promoters at “The Marlboro Party”

Promoters at “The Marlboro Party”

Each of these Marlboro Parties is different.  For instance, some of these ‘parties’ have large video games where patrons compete for top score to qualify for a week’s trip to an actual racing school in California.

Other “Marlboro Party’s” include a free happy hour barbeque where patrons enjoy free food and drinks and where they can win a Weber grill with the Marlboro logo painted on it.  Napkins, paper plates, drink stirrers, table cloths, all have the Marlboro logo on them.

Aside from games and food, these promoters also give away for free packs of Marlboro cigarettes as well as other smoking related accessories such as a Marlboro inscribed butane cigarette lighter.

Before anybody can partake in any type of “Marlboro Party,” promoters must qualify patrons first.  They do this by asking first, if the patron is 21 years or older.  Then they ask if they are a smoker.  If they answer yes to both questions, then they can partake in the “Marlboro Party.”  Once the patron agrees to participate, the promoter asks for their driver’s license or other government approved ID. The promoter then takes these documents and uses a scanner to scan the document information into their handheld computerized tablets.  The information obtained from these documents is then used to do a direct to consumer advertisement mailings.  Phillip Morris then interacts with the consumer by snail mail and/or by email.  Patrons agree to let Phillip Morris send them advertisements and coupons.


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