Last week, the fifth and most famous face of Marlboro cigarettes, Darrell Winfield died at 85 years old. The rugged horse rancher synonymous with “cool” for nearly two decades was the brainchild Leo Burnett and has been considered one of the most powerful brand images of the last century. Despite Marlboro Man’s success—a 300% growth in sales in the first two years alone—it was not met without some controversy for the company. While Winfield’s obituary neglects to mention a cause of death, it does say that he “remained loyal” to the largest selling brand of cigarettes in the world for the remaining years of his life after his campaign run ended in 1989.
As pressure increased on tobacco advertising for health reasons over time, much attention was paid to the deaths of the lesser-known men who filled the role when they died of smoking-related illnesses. The campaign eventually dissolved with the 1998 Master Settlement between tobacco companies and United States Attorney General, which forbade the companies to use humans or cartoons on tobacco advertising in the U.S.
Browsing through some vintage ads recently, I was reminded just how much adversity we face in the health industry as opinions evolve around ever-changing technology and scientific discoveries. As a communications professional, part of the challenge in getting your message out is the art of the delivery. Impeccable strategic planning and ingenious creative are required stand out amongst many competing voices vying for the same space. When I sit in meetings about health services we are promoting at work, I often wonder whether the ideas we are concocting will be looked back upon someday as practice of barbaric medicine or be snickered at for making preposterous claims.
Here are some of my favorites: