The Marlboro Man is a figure used in tobacco advertising campaign for Marlboro cigarettes. In the United States, where the campaign originated, it was used from 1954 to 1999. The Marlboro Man was first conceived by Leo Burnett in 1954. The image involves a rugged cowboy or cowboys, in nature with only a cigarette. The advertisements were originally conceived as a way to popularize filtered cigarettes, which at the time were considered feminine.
The Marlboro advertising campaign, created by Leo Burnett Worldwide, is said to be one of the most brilliant advertisement campaigns of all time. It transformed a feminine campaign, with the slogan "Mild as May", into one that was masculine, in a matter of months. Although there were many Marlboro Men, the cowboy proved to be the most popular. This led to the "Marlboro Cowboy" and "Marlboro Country" campaigns.
Philip Morris & Co. (now Altria) had originally introduced the Marlboro brand as a woman's cigarette in 1924. Starting in the early 1950s, the cigarette industry began to focus on promoting filtered cigarettes, as a response to the emerging scientific data about harmful effects of smoking. Marlboro, as well as other brands, started to be sold with filters. However, filtered cigarettes, Marlboro in particular, were considered to be women’s cigarettes. Advertising executive Leo Burnett was looking for a new image with which to reinvent Philip Morris's Marlboro brand to directly appeal to men. To this end, he put into play the Marlboro Man campaign. Actors, for the most part, played the role of Marlboro Man. They appeared in a number of different venues from carpenter to cowboy. But Leo Burnett was after even more. It was his idea to take the most effective parts of the Marlboro Man campaign, and forge a campaign capable of competition at the highest levels. Among all the professions utilized in the The Marlboro Man campaign, the cowboy stood out as the top performer. Thus, maybe because of intention, or maybe because of circumstance, when the new Marlboro Country campaign opened in late 1963, the actors utilized as Marlboro Man in the Marlboro Man campaign, were gradually replaced with real working cowboys in this new campaign. One of the first of this new breed of real cowboys was Max Bryan "Turk" Robinson, of Hugo, Oklahoma; Turk says that he was recruited for the role while at a rodeo simply standing around behind the chutes, as was the custom for cowboys who had not yet ridden their event. It took only a few years for the results to register. By 1972 the new Marlboro Man would have had so much market appeal, that Marlboro Cigarettes were catapulted to the top of the tobacco industry.
Using another approach to expand the Marlboro Man market base, Philip Morris felt that the prime market was “post adolescent kids who were just beginning to smoke as a way of declaring their independence from their parents.”  Most filtered cigarette advertising sought to make claims about the technology behind the filter. Through the use of complex terminology and scientific claims regarding the filter, the cigarette industry wanted to ease fears about the harmful effects of cigarette smoking through risk reduction. However, Leo Burnett decided to address the growing fears through an entirely different matter; creating ads completely void of health concerns or health claims of the filtered cigarette. Burnett felt that making claims about the effectiveness of filters furthered concerns of the long term effects of smoking. Thus, refusing to respond to health claims matched the emergent, masculine image of the New Marlboro. Burnett's inspiration for the exceedingly masculine "Marlboro Man" icon came in 1949 from an issue of LIFE magazine, where the photograph (shot by Leonard McCombe) and story of Texas cowboy Clarence Hailey Long caught his attention. The new Marlboro also included images of other masculine occupations such as sea captains, athletes, and gunsmiths. However over time, the focus became on the cowboy as the image of the Marlboro Man.
Finding the Marlboro Man
Initially, commercials involving the Marlboro Man featured paid models, such as William Thourlby, pretending to carry out cowboy tasks. However, Burnett felt that the commercials lacked authenticity, as it was pretty clear that the subjects were not real cowboys and did not have the desired rugged look. One of the finest was a rodeo cowboy, Max Bryan "Turk" Robinson, who was recruited at a rodeo. Turk lives in Hugo, Oklahoma and is alive and well as of March 13, 2013. Leo Burnett was not satisfied with the cowboy actors until they came across Darrell Winfield, who worked on a ranch. Leo Burnett’s creative director was awed when he first saw Winfield: “I had seen cowboys, but I had never seen one that just really, like, sort of scared the hell out of me.” Winfield’s immediate authenticity led to his 20 year run as being the Marlboro Man, which lasted until the late 1980s, upon Winfield’s retirement. After Winfield’s retirement, Philip Morris reportedly spent $300 million searching for a new Marlboro Man.
The use of the Marlboro Man campaign had very significant and immediate effects on sales. In 1955 when the Marlboro Man campaign was started, sales were at $5 billion. By 1957, sales were at $20 billion, representing a 300% increase within two years. Philip Morris easily overcame growing health concerns through the Marlboro Man campaign, highlighting the success as well as the tobacco industry’s strong ability to use mass marketing to influence consumers. The immediate success of the Marlboro Man campaign led to heavy imitation. Old Golds adopted the tagline as being a cigarette for “independent thinkers.” Chesterfield depicted cowboy and other masculine occupations to match their tagline of “Men of America” smoke Chesterfields.
Three men who appeared in Marlboro advertisements—Wayne McLaren, David McLean and Dick Hammer—died of lung cancer, thus earning Marlboro cigarettes, specifically Marlboro Reds, the nickname "Cowboy killers". McLaren testified in favor of anti-smoking legislation at the age of 51. During the time of McLaren's anti-smoking activism, Philip Morris denied that McLaren ever appeared in a Marlboro ad, a position it later amended to maintaining that while he did appear in ads, he was not the Marlboro Man, considering Winfield as the holder of that title. McLaren died before his 52nd birthday in 1992.
In many countries, the Marlboro Man is an icon of the past due to increasing pressure on tobacco advertising for health reasons, especially where the practice of smoking appears to be celebrated or glorified. The deaths described above may also have made it more difficult to use the campaign without attracting negative comment. The image continued until recently at least in countries such as Germany and the Czech Republic. It still continues in Japan (on tobacco vending machines for example) where smoking is widespread in the male population.
"Death In the West", a Thames Television documentary, was an exposé of the cigarette industry that aired on British television in 1976 and was centered around the myth of the Marlboro Man. Philip Morris sued the filmmakers and in a 1979 secret settlement all copies were suppressed. In 1983, Professor Stanton A. Glantz released the film and San Francisco, California's KRON aired the documentary in 1982. Since then it has been seen around the world.
In popular culture
The Marlboro Man was portrayed by Don Johnson in the 1991 film Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man. Although the name "Marlboro Man" was used, like several other products that shared the same name as one of the characters, the company did not sponsor or endorse the film itself.
Artist Richard Prince's series known as the Cowboys, produced from 1980 to 1992, and ongoing, is his most famous group of appropriated rephotographs. Taken from Marlboro cigarette advertisements of the Marlboro Man, they represent an idealized figure of American masculinity while questioning the authenticity of media images.
In My Name Is Earl, Earl is referred to as Marlboro Man at a fast food restaurant, where he is working to make up for an item on his list, by his boss, played by Jon Favreau, in season 1 episode 12, "O Karma, Where Art Thou?".
In Tony Kushner's play Angels in America, the character Prior despairs of his former lover's current boyfriend, Joe, and Joe's handsome, masculine appearance, declaring "He's the Marlboro Man, he made me feel beyond Nelly..."
In the Seinfeld episode "The Abstinence", Cosmo Kramer sues a tobacco company but settles out of court, his settlement being the placement of his face as that of the Marlboro Man's on a billboard in Times Square.
In the Coen brothers' 1996 movie "Fargo", a witness relates that the character played by Peter Stormare resembles the Marlboro man, but she might just be saying that "because he smoked a lot of Marlboros".
The band Alabama refers to the Marlboro Man in their song "Cheap Seats", "We sit below the Marlboro man, above the right field wall."
The band Harvey Danger refer to the Marlboro Man in their song "Sad Sweetheart of the Rodeo", "The Marlboro Man died of cancer and he wasn't a rocket scientist when he was healthy."
In the Paula Cole song "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?", the last line of the song says "Where is my Marlboro Man? Where is his shiny gun?" Jason aldean has a line in his song "Dirt Road Anthem", that mentions the Marlboro Man. "King in the can and the Marlboro Man, Jack 'n Jim were a few good men."
In The Good Wife, Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) refers to ballistics expert Kurt McVeigh (Guest star Gary Cole) as the Marlboro Man when she first meets him, due to his cowboy appearance and manners. "I think I have just been visited by the Marlboro Man..." in season 1 episode 15, "Bang".
In The Long Goodbye, the character of Philip Marlowe, played by Elliott Gould, is referred to as the Marlboro Man for his near constant chain smoking by alcoholic novelist Roger Wade, played by Sterling Hayden.
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An Oklahoma native named Darrell Winfield was the main Marlboro Man from the ... After learning he had cancer,