What You Might Not 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 10-gallon hat above the rest — the Marlboro Man. It may be nearly 70 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. What you may not know is that Marlboro cigarettes were originally marketed to women using 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. The Marlboro Man campaign had an astonished effect on sales. In 1955, when the campaign began, sales were at $5 billion. By 1957, sales reached $20 billion, representing a 300% increase in just two years. Originally, the Marlboro Man included occupations such as sea captains, athletes, and gunsmiths, but over time they were ditched in favor of the more popular cowboy. 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. 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.” In 1976, the 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. Now, of course, we know that cigarettes truly are killers, regardless of the profession.