Cigarette Cowboys

early Marlboro adMarlboro Man
Big Brother
King Arthur
Santa Claus

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Before a craggy-faced cowboy galloped across the baby boomer television screen as theMarlboro Man, the brand was marketed as a feminine alternative to the harsher cigarettes gents smoked.

In the 1950s, the tobacco industry scrambled to answer critics who claimed smoking caused everything from cancer to yellow teeth. Filters became the rage. Kent raced out the starting gate but stumbled over an asbestos alarm on its filter tip ingredients.

Philip Morris was hot to trot and decided to re-invent the Marlboro brand. The coming-of-age baby boomer market was there for the taking. Bold merchandisers touted it as a masculine smoke compared to other filters, the general idea of which was regarded initially as less than the real thing – cigarettes for wimps.

The Marlboro man became one of the icons of pop culture advertising. The original was a variety of tough-guy characters including cowboys, car mechanics, hunters and race car drivers – often sporting tattoos, before they were “hip” and still conveyed macho gravitas.

Marlboro cowboyThe cowboy emerged as the dominant image because, as an advertising guru explained, “in a world that was becoming increasingly complex for the ordinary man, the cowboy represented an antithesis –a man whose environment was simplistic and relatively pressure free. He was his own man in a world he owned.”
The stirring theme song from The Magnificent Seven provided the background music for Marlboro Country. Close your eyes, visualize, and the whole scene will come flooding back.

Or just click here: MARLBORO COWBOY

The campaign worked. By 1972 Marlboro was the best selling cigarette brand in the world.

The symbol returned to haunt Phillip Morris. Three men who appeared as the Marlboro Man cowboy died of lung cancer, thus earning Marlboro cigarettes the nickname “Cowboy Killers.” One became a vocal anti-smoking advocate.

Terry Hamburg writes the Baby Boomer Daily about the exciting and revolutionary baby boomer years.

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