From 1954 to 1999 one of the most recognizable individuals in advertising was the Marlboro Man.
Due to the fact that the first filtered cigarettes were considered “feminine,” advertising agency Leo Burnett Worldwide created a series of TV and print ads featuring a Navy lieutenant smoking the new type of cigarette. They tried other macho male figures after those initial advertisements, but due the popularity of westerns on TV and in movies, the image of individualistic cowboys working in the wild and picturesque west won out.
The image quickly changed the minds of American men who had previously considered filtered cigarettes to be less than manly. It was also a way for Philip Morris to compete with the new health information coming out that showed the harmful effects of tobacco.
The ads did not attempt to overcome the scientific proof of tobacco’s dangers, they simply showed strong and virile men employed in hard physical labor smoking Marlboros. That, along with the use of Elmer Bernstein’s theme music from the movie “The Magnificent Seven,” convinced American men, and teenagers, that they should start buying the filtered cigarettes wrapped in red and white packaging.
Some of the first Marlboro ad cowboys did not even use tobacco. The problem was, Leo Burnett did not feel those men were authentic enough. The ad agency eventually came across Darrell Winfield, a real cowboy and a real smoker. He had the role for 20 years.
Most of the cowboys in the ads, including Wayne McLaren, David McLean, Dick Hammer, Eric Lawson and Tobin Jackson died from smoking related illnesses, earning Marlboros the nick name of “cowboy killer.”
Over the years, the Marlboro man has worked his way into pop culture, showing up or referenced in a number of pop songs, TV shows and movies. However, the fact that cigarettes came to be known as deadly poison eventually caused the image to be discontinued.
While the Marlboro cowboy is still occasionally seen on vending machines in a few countries like Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic and Japan, in the US, and most of the rest to the world, the iconic Marlboro Man has simply become a fading relic, destined to reside in the dark archives of advertising history.
For more information go to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marlboro_Man