Truth About Cigarette Advertising
Two lithe, tanned bodies lazily languish near a limpid river. The heads of the two persons are thrown back in poses of a supremely confident nature. Their facial features, though, are indistinguishable amidst the ephemeral haze which envelops them. Curiosity piqued and intently surveying the scene, one then notices the cigarettes dangling from the fingers of the pair. Advertisements such as this are now ubiquitous to the point of annoyance. These attempts to entice consumers to buy cigarettes are not simply trumped up exaggerations, as is the case with other products. Cigarette companies market their products with blatant lies. No one is shown with yellowed teeth or suffering from a hacking cough. Instead, smokers are always pictured as being in the pink of health. More alarmingly, smokers and smoking are perceived as being desirable. This perception has seemingly permeated every facet of popular culture. The sad truth today is—cigarettes are cool!
More overt instances of cigarette companies attempting to marry their products with images having positive connotations occurred in the first half of the twentieth century. Since then, however, the marketing juggernauts of these organizations have become more adept at promoting their brands in nearly every sphere of public life. In the earlier times though, the principal mode of product placement was via magazines. Here are two such magazine advertisements.
Kool magazine advertisement circa 1940
Camels magazine advertisement – circa 1950
In the first picture, which was put out during the Second World War, cigarettes are linked with the badges of the United States Armed Forces. Here, Kool attempts to ride the wave of support for American troops. After all, some people may have qualms about their country’s involvement in a war but, once involved, the public will always support the people who risk their lives to fight for them. Similarly, Camels utilizes the iconic figure of a smiling Santa Claus to proffer their product unto magazine readers. Every American knows about good Ol’ St. Nick, even if they aren’t Christian, and associates him with fun times with family and friends. This measure therefore, is nothing short of a devious attempt to insinuate that cigarette smoking is a wholesome and popular pursuit of the American public, on par with activities such as eating apple pie and watching a game of baseball.
The focus on magazine advertising shifted to the entertainment industry with the advent of television and motion pictures in the middle of the 20th century. Popular actors became idols who were imitated by legions of adoring fans. Suddenly, here was a new avenue through which cigarettes could be marketed! This gave rise to the sickening practice of product placement in films whereby ‘cool’ characters were seen smoking cigarettes. Clearly, smoking then became viewed as ‘cool’ by impressionable moviegoers who attempted to mimic their stars. On...