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Serial Killers

Marlboro billboards

thumbnail  of Marlboro poster: Good Morning Texas Poster with Fastfood ad. poster with Big isn't it ad. Cinemascope ad.



The Second coming page noted that a number of Marlboro ads, initially presented over the past few years, including three of the four ads illustrated below, received a second airing in the printed media and on billboard hoarding.   Behind each of them undoubtedly lies a story worth telling.   This page ads some additional commentary to that supplied on Second Coming. With regard to the final example, Big, isn't it, a much more detailed analysis can be found in the authors book Sexy, Subliminal and Deadly?: The psychology of manipulative advertising (in preparation).   

From Texas to Vietnam -and beyond

Marlboro poster: Good Morning TexasMost movie going members of the public will recall the raucous yell with which the character played by Robin Williams introduced his radio programme.  The tag line on this ad bears some similarity to William's opening line of  'Gooood Morning, Viee -eeeeet - nam!' Nevertheless one must acknowledge that the tagline 'Good Morning Texas'  was most likely influenced by early morning  talk radio rather than the movie.    Whatever the origins of the tagline, their similarity draws attention to some equally telling similarities between the actions of the US forces in Vietnam and those of Philip Morris Inc, the producers of Marlboro.   Both draw upon the notion of freedom to justify their actions.   Both have carried out actions which influenced - and also terminated - the lives of millions.

The US Military relies upon claims to support American interests and also the western concept of freedom to justify its existence. Philip Morris simply claims freedom under the American Constitution to pursue its legitimate interests in selling cigarettes and other tobacco products.   The semi-subliminal tobacco ads illustrated in these pages indicates quite clearly the hypocritical stance of tobacco companies such as Philip Morris Inc. and Brown and Williamson.   Whilst they claim to uphold freedom of choice they attempt to deny this freedom to potential and actual smokers by producing adverts that contain elements that cannot be consciously appraised by the lay viewer.

I will not go so far as to state unequivocally that semi-subliminal advertising is effective. Experiments could undoubtedly determine whether this is so. At present one can only rely upon two factors to aid in judging whether or not semi-subliminal and other manipulative advertising is effective at influencing people. First, the circumstantial case that is presented on this web site. Second, the knowledge that major companies generally evaluate the outcome of their marketing and advertising campaigns. They would not, under normal circumstances, continue to pursue ineffective strategies for many years. Yet this would be the case if they knew semi-subliminal advertising was a waste of effort.

Most Americans now acknowledge that the military action in Vietnam was unjustified.  It is perhaps time they reached the same conclusion regarding cigarette advertising. Many Marlboro ads, despite their witty puns and elaborate constructions, are rather Marlboro Poster: Fast Fooddreary in appearance. The Fast Food ad, despite the punning nature of the tagline when considered in conjunction with the jack rabbit on the right, is one such ad.  Yet despite its overall appearance members of the advertising profession do not think it is not as mundane as it might first appear.  It certainly was notable enough to appear in Dave Saunders 20th Century Book of Advertising along with a few of the classic Cover of 20th Century Advertising Marlboro ads featuring the Marlboro cowboy.  

It seems reasonable to ask why this ad was chosen, rather than any other recent ad. This may have had something to do with Saunders' preferences for specific types of imagery.   But it may also have been because he responded with a heightened degree of arousal to the sexual message embedded in the ad (see Second Coming).    As might be expected, the semi-subliminal content escaped Saunders' eye and there is no comment on this aspect of the ad in his book. Nor would one expect such comment on this aspect of any ad. They are, after all, intended never to be consciously perceived in everyday viewing.  

Marlboro poster: Big, isn't itThe billboard on the right presents another Marlboro teaser. In the authors view, this ad would be a serious contender, along with a few other ads, for the position of Semi-subliminal Ad of the Century.    The accolade would be awarded because in this one ad there are semi-subliminal elements associated with both sex and death (anxiety). It is more usual, if an ad contains content likely to trigger ideas of sex and death, that each image/message will be related only to one or the other of these concepts.  Big, isn't it. provides imagery that is a potent combination of both sex and death. Shall we call it a necrophiliad?   Some early thoughts on this ad are found in the draft excerpts from Sexy, Subliminal and Deadly?: The psychology of manipulative advertising to be found on the Bookbits page.

Marlboro poster: It's why we have cinemascope.This type of ad is not really why Cinemascope was invented. Nevertheless the grand scenery typical of Death Valley or some similar location is quite apposite when one is promoting cigarette smoking.  Would this thought be reflected upon by the millions of viewers who saw the billboard or the ad? Is is more likely that they either suppressed such thoughts and had another drag to comfort themselves.

More information about some aspects of the semi-subliminal components of this panoramic ad can be found on the Second Coming page. Additional commentary on psychodynamic concepts such as supression and repression can be found on the FAQ and Freud pages. For a couple of Marlboro billboards with a sexual slant see the Mexican ad pages.

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No smoking sign.Future Developments

Would you be interested in supporting the development of a web site focussing specifically on cigarette advertising, smoking behaviour, nicotine addiction and related information? In particular would you like to help encourage youngsters to develop a healthy scepticism about advertising practices associated with cigarette advertising and promotion? If you can offer either financial assistance to develop such a site or have material available that could be of use on such a site, the author would be pleased if you would contact him.


If you come across any ads you would like to see included on the web page send details to 

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Commentary and information about any of the ads or requests on this Web site can be sent by e-mail to the Webmaster

To the best of the author's knowledge none of the illustrations, in the format used on this site, are subject to copyright. If copyright has been inadvertently breached please contact the author in order to rectify the matter. All brands and logos referred to or illustrated on this site are the property of the relevant companies and copyright holders. However, commentary and other information produced by the author can be freely copied and distributed. Similarly, illustrations of ads, so long as they are accompanied by commentary or are presented in the form of parody, can also be copied and distributed but please acknowledge as the source. Translation of tobacco company ads and relevant commentary into languages other than English will be particularly welcomed.

Last Revised: 3rd January, 2003


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