Vintage Marlboro ads targeted at moms

I had no idea that Marlboros were originally marketed to women, but it appears so. From the Sociological Images blog: "Notice how in one picture the baby actually asks mom to have a cigarette instead of scolding him. It plays up the women-as-hysterical stereotype and also shows changing expectations about good motherhood.." Who knew that the Marlboro Man had a thing for MILKCs (Mothers I'd Like to Kill with Cancer)? Marlboros for Mommies


  1. Cigarettes were originally intended for women, as it was thought of as the female version of cigars, which were primarily for men. But in WWII packs of cigarettes would be sent off to the soldiers as it was easier than sending cigars, and easier to smoke as well in a short period of time, and it helped the soldiers relax. When they came back from war, all the men were addicted to cigarettes so they started changing their marketing to include men as well.

    To relate to Marlbaro, they started using masculine figures in their ads, such as sailors, soldiers, etc anybody that was considered manly. And the reason why Marlbaro uses the cowboys a lot now is because that was a figure that apparently people liked a lot, so they stuck with it.

    Yay, I actually paid attention in my marketing class!

  2. When I was growing up, my mother smoked Marlboro Lights, at least back in the days before she realized it was costing her a fortune over time, at which point she switched to generics.

    One might think that she was responding to this advertising campaign, except she had a different reason for brand loyalty. Her father, the actor Paul Smith (screen name Paul Birch) was the first Marlboro Man.

    (For what it’s worth, he also played one of the first characters to get killed in War of the Worlds… “we’re friends!”)

  3. Yes Ladies smoking is so liberating! (Poster spits on the ground in disgust that people would addict their fellows to toxins for profit)

  4. Yes, Marlboros were the original Virginia Slims of cigarettes. Wussy-smokes with filters for the women while the men smoked filterless cigars.

  5. It must have been a huge relief to women not to feel “over-smoked”.

    What were the OTHER cigarettes like back then? Were they four feet long?

  6. Cigarettes were already popular among men by WWI — soldiers had cigs back then.

    Marlboro’s slogan in the 1920s was “Mild as May.” The tips were red or pink to hide lipstick stains. Then Marlboro realized that it was a man’s cigarette trapped in a woman’s cigarette’s body, and well, you know what happened.

  7. “Cigarettes were originally intended for women”? Not really. Filtered cigarettes maybe. In 1902 Philip Morris introduced Marlboros to the U.S. with a red filter tip to hide lipstick marks. But they weren’t a success. They had more luck in 1924 flogging Marlboros with the slogan “Mild as May” targeting “decent, respectable” women. “Has smoking any more to do with a woman’s morals than has the color of her hair?” the copy on one ad. read. “Marlboros now ride in so many limousines, attend so many bridge parties, and repose in so many handbags”.

  8. “Seraphwings” says “And the reason why Marlboro uses the cowboys a lot now is because that was a figure that apparently people liked a lot, so they stuck with it.” That’s crap too. The choice of the cowboy had nothing to do with the target market – it was chosen by the advertising guy Leo Burnett who asked his copywriters “What’s the most masculine symbol you can think of?” And one of them said “a cowboy”.

  9. Whoa! Promoting both smoking and smoking around children; it’s like looking at another century… oh wait…

  10. As someone in advertising for a living I can tell you, Leo Burnett asking what is the most masculine symbol you can think of and then using it to attract the people you are selling to is EXACTLY what target marketing is. When they switched they’re strategy to male smokers, they weren’t trageting cowboys by showing cowboys, they were targeting what men viewed as real men by showing cowboys. That’s what target marketing is all about.

    There are lots of examples of companies switching their marketing strategies to keep products afloat. Miller Lite was originally marketed to women because it had less calories. That didn’t work and it started selling to men. Hence the whole TASTES GREAT, LESS FILLING tagline using famous athletes to sell the beer.

    There are tons of these stories. Seek them out and enjoy the stories.

  11. Cigarettes are the Devil’s penis!! (copyright lol)

    Marlboro was one of the first filtered cigarettes.
    Filtered smokes were primarily marketed to women so that they need not deal with tobacco flakes in their mouths or clinging to their lipstick.
    (a lady never spits!)

    Any inconvenience that might make smoking bothersome or unattractive needed to be ironed-out before the bulldozing marketing campaign’s of the 1960’s.

    Thank the gods that cigarettes are now safe, healthy and a great way to meet others… Particularly when congregated around a trash bin outside a place of business or tavern.

  12. Of all the funny-’cause-it’s-old-timey things I’ve seen in years, this is one of the best.

    “Chill the fuck out, Mom! If you’re too far gone to realize that you shouldn’t be yelling at a six-month-old, maybe you need a Marlboroâ„¢!” Actually, she probably does, in that scenario.

    I really have nothing to add. It’s just brilliant.

  13. i’ve also created a mad men flickr group for any potential madmen fans that are into photography and photoshop.

    if we get enough good ones maybe we’ll get our own boing boing post.

    (note, i’m not calling the single photo i added good, just a first attempt. feel free to post your first trys too. and second. and third. etc.)

  14. This was part of a marketing campaign designed by Edward L Bernays. He is considered the father of modern advertising. His first assignment was to sell WWI to the American people. The second was to sell cigarettes to women.

    This guy, a nephew of Freud, understood humans and was very good at what he did. I have talked with college students who have degrees in this field, and they have never heard of Bernays.

    Of course his efforts pale in comparison to the sophistication used in today’s ads, especially combined with television and the results of psyops research.

    From Adbusters magazine: A picture of a man in a dark room watching television. On the back of his neck is a bar code. The caption, the factory is your living room. The product is you.

    If you expose yourself to it, you belong to them and you will never know it.

    People are still stunned when I tell them we have no TV access in our home. Then then give the line that they only watch PBS and nature shows. But they can discuss the latest episodes and TV ads with anyone. Are they really that unaware?

  15. Back when I was in college, in the late 70s and early 80s, I spent quite a lot of time in the library going through old microfilm newspapers and reading old magazines; from the turn of the century up through the 50s. The experience was quite a culture shock.

    Ads like this are merely the tip of the iceberg. The real shockers were in the news stories and articles themselves. Attitudes towards race, gender, ethnicity, foreign relations, war, and politics seemed utterly alien. It was easy to think “boy, those people sure were crazy back then. People are much more sane now.”

    But it caused me to be cognizant of what and how things were being said in the media. It finally dawned on me that attitudes hadn’t really changed that much, it was, in many cases, merely the language and presentation that changed. The world was still full of bigots and crazy people, and advertisers were still lying to us. They just used different words. Today’s euphemism is tomorrows defamation.

    It’s easy, now, to look back at media from _that_ period, the beginning of the Reagan years, and see how wonky an era _it_ was. Before anyone here feels too smug looking at ads like this, remember that it is almost guaranteed that people in the future will be looking back with wonder and shaking their heads at us.

    FWIW, I remember showing my father a photocopy of one of those ads, this one featuring a doctor recommending a particular brand of cigarette as a “warming” treatment for winter coughing. My father just laughed and said that everyone, even back then, knew that smoking was bad for you. He said that people of his generation started smoking to look cool, like the actors in the movies, and then got addicted. Plus nearly everyone did it. Then, as now, image and perceived peer pressure were the more motivating force in advertising, far outstripping logic and reason, no matter how real or bogus. Ads like this were considered cranky even back then.

    (My father himself gave up smoking in the 40s on his doctors orders, because of respiratory problems. It seems to have helped, he recently turned 92.)

  16. “It plays up the women-as-hysterical stereotype”

    Devil’s advocacy time! Could also be a referance to the sort of irrationality all nicotine addicts get when their system is running low on their drug.

  17. “I’m wondering what things from our times people will look back at to feel superior.”

    not torturing people?

    just off the top of my head. I can think of others but it might incite angryness and thread jacking. but that makes sense because in order for awesome future people to feel superior there have to be enough people who feel complacent about something now.

  18. There’s a pretty awesome scene in Shirley Jackson’s LIFE AMONG THE SAVAGES (I think) where her water has broken (she’s in labor with her youngest child), she’s in a cab and she lights up a smoke.

  19. Seraphwings,
    What about all those men smoking cigarettes in movies prior to WWII, or do I have my chronology wrong?
    My grandma smoked Chesterfields and got the S&H Green Stamps that came with them. Seemed like that was aimed at women, but I dunno. She died of emphysema.

  20. “I’m wondering what things from our times people will look back at to feel superior.”


    just off the top of my head. I can think of others but it might incite angryness and thread jacking ;)

    On a more serious note; Anything that you feel superior because you don’t believe in, you probably expect that more people in the future will agree with you, that they will look back and go “Tsk tsk tsk” and you’d go “Yeah, I know!”. Almost any political issue can be included here – abortion, gay marriage, church-state separation, you name it – no matter which side of it you’re on.

    As for societal norms… I figure we’ll have to get over the obesity thing at some point, and from then on people will look back at news reports and family pictures from decades before and notice how chubby everyone is (but not on tv shows, movies, or ads, of course).

    And almost ALL ads are mindless, aimed at irrational drives in ways that anyone would feel embarrassed about, after thinking about it for a minute. Almost every ad shows something cool/exciting and tries to associate that coolness/excitement with a product to make you want it (and yes, it is embarrassing how ad men keep triggering these irrational wants) or tells a little story of a common problem that was thoroughly solved by the problem (at least that kinda makes sense… if you believe it). I guess people from the future might laugh at us for believing that this or that medicine really cured this or that problem, but I find it more likely that they’ll laugh at things like AXE commercials that show hot women feeling hopelessly attracted to men who wear a certain deodorant.

    But I haven’t really been exposed to commercials for a few years now so I don’t really know what I’m talking about. Yay technology.

  21. Somewhere I have a full-page magazine ad John Wayne did for unfiltered Camels back in the 60’s or 70’s. Sill gives me an ironic chuckle. (Wayne died of lung cancer.)

  22. Re: #25 and quite a few after that — “I’m wondering what things from our times people will look back at to feel superior.”

    I’m not sure what pre-1500s Europeans thought of the forms of smoking they knew of (such as the inhalation of the smoke of laurel leaves by the Delphic oracles in order to get “visions”), but Sir Walter Raleigh is blamed for bringing tobacco and the practice of smoking it back to England from the New World. In fact, after he fell out of favor with Queen Elizabeth, that was one of the charges leveled against him. Legend has it that his last request before execution was to enjoy a pipe. Apparently Elizabeth thought it was a “noisome habit.” (Some Native Americans will claim that smoking tobacco is part of a communal ritual with sacred overtones; but this may vary from tribe to tribe. We’re pretty sure that some tribes simply smoked for the heck of it.) Anyway, smoking has had detractors almost since the get-go, and most of the health risks have been well-known for the last 250 years. But people being what they are, it takes a great deal of character to realize that “this is a thing that causes long-term health problems” and not succumb to the “hey, it looks cool!” mentality.

    As for what future generations will think about our own habits: hand sanitizer, I’m sure, will be one obvious no-no. Just as we shake our heads at old patent medicines containing radium or cocaine, or using X-ray machines without protection, our descendants will wonder why our schools continued to allow and even promote the use of a substance that kills beneficial bacteria along with the odd harmful germ (thus leaving one wide open to infection by harmful germs unless you continually bathe in the stuff), and that causes alcohol to enter the bloodstream through absorption through the skin. People may argue, “I don’t feel drunk, and I use hand sanitizer!” Likewise, I’m sure people who took patent medicines didn’t think they felt stoned or irradiated. Meanwhile, hospitals have banned hand sanitizer for causing more problems than it solves.

    SUVs will be a popular target for ideas about turn-of-the-century foolishness. In an age with almost paranoic views on safety, and where gasoline was becoming prohibitively expensive and people were crying out for alternative fuel sources, people will wonder how these oversized gas-guzzlers with too-high centers of gravity managed to avoid becoming instant Edsels. Were there really that many stupid people with that much money? I can’t figure it out myself, and I get stuck behind those things every day on the way to work.

    I can’t speak much about which advertisements people will regard as silly, because I tend to ignore ads. To me, they’re all pretty stupid & insulting, trying to sell useless stuff to people with money. Nearly everything I have sought out for purchase is either not advertised, or the ads had no bearing on my purchase. (For example, I did research on used cars for sale before buying my car. The commercials are irrelevant, since they all praise their cars to the skies. Maybe me car was advertised on TV; maybe it wasn’t. My awareness of the product, and decision to buy, began with my researching used cars available in my area.)

  23. I’m surprised that no one has pointed out that the Marlboro logo and package design is a reversed image of a lipstick.

  24. TRR @29:
    Hmmm…maybe I’m wrong, but that seems to be what I remember. There definitely were men who smoked cigarettes before WWII, but I don’t think it was directly marketed towards them until after when there were a lot more men smoking it.

  25. As a mother & former smoker, I can see where the ad “maybe you better light up before you scold me” does resonate effectively.

    There were times of anger and frustration in dealing w/ babies and toddlers that going out & having a cig helped me have a calmer state of mind to deal with them.

  26. I often encourage my wife to light up when she’s having a go at me or the sprog. Sometimes it’s the only thing that will calm her down. (Separate issue whether her having a go is ever justified.)

    And then I get to bask in the peace and the realization that I’m helping her towards her grave.

    Dunno — the whole fucking shebang, perhaps? What’s not to ridicule?

  27. ndollak @ 34: “As for what future generations will think about our own habits: hand sanitizer, I’m sure, will be one obvious no-no.”

    I would think it’s not so much the hand sanitizer as the antibacterial everything. Although I do think hand sanitizer use is getting out of hand (I honestly didn’t intend that pun when I was composing this in my head), there are some situations that really do call for it. At least hand sanitizer kills the germs effectively. That which does not kill germs makes them stronger.

  28. What exactly is feeling “over-smoked” anyway? Seriously, I’ve never smoked, but I’ve never heard/seen that concept before.

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