Why the cowboy is far from over
Philip Morris wants to quit the cigarette. The tobacco company is not only giving up its best-known brand, but also its most successful advertising campaign. For the most important man, this is good news.
Ein man, a horse, a lasso. You involuntarily think about the cigarette in the corner of your mouth, even if you can’t see it and our rider, here photographed dramatically against the light, is possibly even a non-smoker. The cowboy is an American icon, a symbol of the Wild West.
But the riding cow driver had also become a cliché for a deceptive freedom that one took with a few lunges over decades until smoking was slowly pushed out of everyday life.
The first substantial reports that cigarette smoke and lung cancer were directly related were made in the mid-1950s. It is probably no coincidence that in 1955 one of the leading tobacco companies came up with the brilliant idea of marketing its only filter cigarette, which was supposed to make smoking more palatable to women at the time, with an advertising campaign in which cowboys rode through the prairie and Monument Valley.
Puffing through a foam mouthpiece was not only permitted for men, the patriotic-pathetic photographs became so popular that it was soon no longer necessary to refer to the brand at all. Everyone knew the Marlboro man was trotting through Marlboro country here, and what would he be smoking?
Nobody smokes anymore, not even the Marlboro Mann actors, whose many lung diseases fell victim, and most likely not even the top executives in the tobacco industry. Today we either steam or suckle on the tobacco heater. And even the most gender-flexible post “Brokeback Mountain” cowboy can no longer be used effectively for advertising for these new smoke media.
Not surprisingly, a few days ago the new CEO of Philip Morris, Jacek Olczak, announced that it would be giving up the Marlboro brand within ten years, at least in the UK. This is also good news for the cowboy, he is loose with a truck and can ride into the sunset more carefree.