Albert Lasker (1880-1952) is considered by many to be the father of modern advertising. A German native who emigrated to the United States as a child, Lasker was a partner with the firm Lord & Thomas (now called DraftFCB). While with Lord & Thomas, he developed the advertising campaigns that launched several important brands such as Sunkist, Palmolive, and Kotex, Pepsodent. Many of these campaigns have had a lasting impact on the daily consumption habits of Americans (that daily glass of orange juice you have with breakfast is almost entirely Lasker’s doing).
Lasker also pioneered the usage of many adveritising techniques we now take for granted. One of the most important was the incorporation of psychological insight into ad copy. Lasker’s campaign for Lucky Strike Cigarettes is one of his best executions of this technique.
In the late 1920’s, the American Tobacco Company’s Lucky Strike brand approached Lord & Thomas to help them compete with Camel (then the #1 selling cigarette in Amerca). They chose a growth strategy built around increasing Lucky Strike’s appeal to a new demographic - women. At the time of the campaign, smoking was considered by most women to be “vulgar and filthy.”
Lasker’s stroke of genius was identifying a prevailing desire for women to keep thin. By positioning Lucky Strikes as a weight controlling alternative to desserts, Lasker was able to appeal to upperclass women who desired a svelte physique. As a result of the rebranding, Lucky Strike cigarette sales increased from 25 million to 150 million units daily. More importantly the brand became the number one cigarette brand nationally.
Take a look at some of the copy from the original campaigns. Do you think Lasker’s approach has value today?
Full disclosure first: In my time wandering this ball of rock, I have enjoyed the occasional cigarette. There now I have outed myself. My insurance premiums are going to balloon, no matter how much I work out or how much grapefruit juice I drink. Be that as it may, I feel compelled to comment on a new ad campaign that was recently rolled out in the US. Please watch this short video so as to get you up to speed:
Anti-smoking campaigns have been amongst the most enduring forms of consumer & market communication in the last 20 years. Not matter which organization has funded the adverts, they have always opted for the George W. Bush method of getting your message across…shock and awe. They have attacked the image, shown us the sexual consequences, even the autopsy. All the news and the flash is focused on the ads, despite the fact that in the grand scheme of things, and in the life of most smokers, these adverts are nothing more than annoyances. Do you know what most smokers do when they see these adverts? They change the channel and light another one up. Plaster the cigarette cartons with all the picture you want, it won’t help. Unlike most marketing campaigns, anti-smoking ads need to find a way not only to cut through the noise, but also the voice of the addiction. What is more, the advert shown above is not targeted at the right audience. We should not be so concerned with those who already smoke, but rather those who are taking it up right now. According to smokingstatistics.org, roughly 600,000 teenagers take up smoking every year and the numbers have not dipped even a little. This is the demographic that these adverts should be targeting, and even then it should not be the core of the campaign. Smokers are most likely to quit smoking when it becomes too much of an embuggerance upon their lives and their wallet. Throwing smokers out of the public buildings/offices/airplanes etc. was a good first step, asking them for $9 dollars a packet is good second one. If the prices rise like this on a national scale, it is more likely that you will see a severe drop in smoking amongst all age groups. After all, why blow nearly $10 dollars on small packet of smokes, if you can buy enough Four Lokos to fuel a truly outrageous party?
So my advice for the anti-smoking NGOs would be not to waste millions on awareness ads, but rather buy yourself lobbyists. Don’t try to make smoking illegal, but make it so expensive and such a social encumbrance that the option will be to either smoke or have money for food. Not all marketing campaigns need to be seen on television to be effective, and not all the best brands are household names.
- Philip Beickler