Gun smokes! 10 things you didn’t know about the Marlboro Man


Cowboys have been used to promote pretty much every product under the prairie sky. There is, however, one advertising cowboy that stands a ten gallon hat above the rest, the Marlboro Man. It may be 40 years since Phillip Morris decided to replace him with a new campaign based on the slogan “Welcome to Marlboro country”, but his legacy lives on. In recognition of this successful, if ultimately controversial, use of the cowboy, we’ve unearthed some astounding facts about this advertising icon.

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1. Marlboro cigarettes, with their “ivory tips to protect your lips” were originally marketed to woman with the slogan “Mild as May”. When ad man Leo Burnett came up with the Marlboro Man idea in 1954, he transformed Marlboro cigarettes into macho must haves.


2. Burnett inspirations for the “Marlboro Man” came in 1949 from an issue of LIFE magazine, where a photograph, shot by Leonard McCombe, of Texas cowboy Clarence Hailey Long caught his attention.

3.  The Marlboro Man campaign had an astonishing effect on sales. In 1955 when the Marlboro Man campaign was started, sales were at $5 billion. By 1957, sales reached $20 billion, representing a 300% increase within two years.

4. Originally, the Marlboro Man included other masculine occupations such as sea captains, athletes, and gunsmiths. However, over time, these were ditched in favour of the more popular cowboy.


5. In 1963, Philip Morris purchased the rights to Elmer Bernstein’s classic movie soundtrack, The Magnificent Seven . This superb Academy Award nominated score was then used as background music for Marlboro TV commercials.

6. The original commercials involving the Marlboro Man featured paid models pretending to carry out cowboy tasks. But Leo Burnett felt that the commercials lacked authenticity, so in 1968, they hired Oklahoma cowboy Darrell Winfield.

7. Three Marlboro men – Wayne McLaren , David McLean and Dick Hammer – died of lung cancer, thus earning Marlboro cigarettes, specifically Marlboro Reds, the nickname “Cowboy killers”

8. After developing lung cancer in 1990, Wayne McLaren became an anti-smoking crusader citing his 30-year smoking habit as the cause of his cancer. During the time of McLaren’s anti-smoking activism, Philip Morris denied that McLaren ever appeared in a Marlboro ad.

9. In 1976, a British documentary “Death In the West” , about the cigarette industry centered around the myth of the Marlboro Man. Philip Morris sued the filmmakers and in a 1979 secret settlement all copies were destroyed.

10. In many countries, the Marlboro Man is an icon of the past due to increasing pressure on tobacco advertising for health reasons. However, the Marlboro Man is still used in Japan, where smoking is widespread in the male population.

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