Saturday, November 10, 2012

Cigarette marketing to women, 1930s style

Retronaut unearthed a couple of weird 1930s ads for Virginia Rounds (grandmother brand to Virginia Slims), a cigarette by Benson & Hedges aimed at women.

The example above, with its sharable dark humour and user-generated content contest, isn't that different from "breakthrough" social media campaigns today. (Although the disregard for the baby's health would also create a massive social media PR meltdown in today's more sensitive media era.)

The campaign also used celebrity. Illustrator Russell Patterson was a legend, having helped define the flapper style in his 1920s cover and interior artwork for publications like The Saturday Evening Post, Vogue, Vanity Fair, Cosmopolitan, Redbook and Photoplay. He was also a successful syndicated cartoonist. 

The dated, but interesting, "girl power" approach in the ad above foreshadows Virginia Slims' 1960s pseudo-feminist marketing strategy of "You've come a long way baby". And like it, it commits the unforgivable crime of co-opting female empowerment to sell a deadly product.

I found one more ad from the series at

If you know of any others, please share.

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