Posted by: Brad Nixon | April 19, 2018

Springtime Freshness in Every Puff

It’s spring. How shall we celebrate?

We can stage a maypole dance, picnic in some sylvan setting, hold hands with someone special and walk under the cherry trees blossoming around the lake. Ah, spring!

Let’s face it, though. We’re idiots — we humans, I mean. We’re easily persuaded to do things that are not in our best interests. Instead of dancing, picnicking or strolling, we do the craziest darned stuff: some of it perniciously ill-considered. For example, with very little persuasion, we’ll buy anything: snake oil, abercisers, hypnotic weight removal, peace through war (purchased through our generous tax donations).

A line of discussion broke out here this week in the Under Western Skies bullpen, where the creative staff spend hours every day dreaming up the material that appears here in blog posts.

We were on the topic of U.S. state capital cities (something you have to know if you’re ever going to go on Jeopardy! and meet Alex Trebek, which is my lifelong ambition). Delaware? Dover. Washington? Olympia. Oregon? No, not Portland: Salem.

From there, as often happens, we sidetracked. “Salem” was the culprit. One of the gang said they could never remember Oregon’s capital, and that crowd of raconteurs started dreaming up word- and idea associations to use to fix it in memory. Among the suggestions came this one:

“Take a puff: It’s springtime!”

Younger readers will ask by what torturous mental pathway that phrase might suggest “Salem.” More, um, mature ones will recognize it in an instantaneous flash. The full phrase reads, “Take a puff: It’s springtime – Salem!”

That was one of many marketing slogans that battered the consumer’s consciousness for attention during the heyday of Salem brand cigarettes. If you don’t believe me, I don’t blame you, but inhaling the aerosol product of burning tobacco leaves was supposed to make you feel “springtime fresh.” In a long-ago time, that product was aggressively marketed on television, making certain that youngsters, including me, got the message. Friends, I kid you not; another tagline repeated endlessly in commercials as the screen showed well-dressed, happy people sucking away on cigarettes was “Springtime freshness in every puff!”

Springtime Freshness

Yep, “Sprintime Fresh.” Look at those two: They have it all working: wicker hamper, that plaid cooler, the blanket under the weeping willow, the placid lake in the background, and — ahh, he’s lighting her cigarette: how romantic. There’s a springtime celebration for you.

You thought I was kidding. Scenes like that print ad played out on television, too. They were an integral part of life, the way commercials for cars, beer and obscure pharmaceuticals are today.

According to TV, there were other routes to happiness as spring gave way to summer, and the humid air of the Midwest pressed down on us. We no longer needed springtime freshness, we needed relief from the oppressive, turgid atmosphere that was wilting the flowerbeds and giving Aunt Opal the prickly heat. The wizards of Madison Avenue decided to regale us with televised scenes of more well-dressed, happy people skipping up icy-cold steps carved into snowy slopes, there to find — what else? — refreshing cigarettes! The slogan made it clear:

Come up, come up, come all the way up … to Kools.

Or, in this still from that era, a refreshing, burbling (one assumes) fountain:

Kool BW

Oh, yes; In those halcyon days, television was black and white. There’s something resonant in in those high contrast images that were the visual framework of my youth, like the brand of cigarettes that said they “Taste good — like a cigarette should!”

winston TV spot BW

An ashtray with a burning cigarette. Very appealing. People bought ’em by the truckload, too.

But I digress. We were talking about relief, springtime, coolness.

How cool were Kools? So cool, they’d ease the burning of a sore throat!

Kool ad

And that logo: a penguin. Nothing says “cool” like a penguin. Very sophisticated.

Touting the health benefits of smoking had a long history prior to TV. Advertisements featured official-looking “scientific evidence,” testimonials from celebrities and, my favorite, testimonials from (purportedly) doctors, like this one:

Camels Dr

Celebrities? Oh yes. Their numbers in cigarette ads were legion. Movie stars, sports heroes, the works. Doubt their word? Here’s a future President of the United States!

Reagan Chesterfield

No one questions a president’s word. To this day.

Then, in a stupendously successful move, cigarette advertising created its OWN celebrities. Let’s recall where we started, with springtime freshness. A competing brand of cigarettes had a similar slogan, “Mild as May.” Humans, of course, bought those, because ads never lie, but a clever advertising guy named Leo Burnett changed the game forever and abandoned freshness and mildness in 1954, just as I was getting old enough to leaf through magazines and pay attention to television. How? He went with toughness, grit and manliness!

Marlboro Man

Need I say more? One of the most successful advertising campaigns of all time. So far as I know, some number of women bought into the deal, too, abandoning cute penguins and sylvan picnics for manly men. Knew it all along, didn’t ya, guys?

One of the core principles of advertising, though, is that there are untapped markets out there. Human beings are complex, diverse and motivated by a nearly infinite number of influences. Some insightful marketeer noticed something: About half the humans waiting to be exploited were … women! Ta da! A cigarette for women! What a concept. And just in time to turn the nascent liberation of women, women’s liberation and expanding consciousness into cash!

youve-come-a-long-way-baby

“You’ve come a long way, baby.” Now, who wrote that? I’m betting a week’s revenue from Under Western Skies it was a man. A prodigiously cynical one, at that.

Here we are, then, in the midst of springtime, languishing in freshness, bedecked with petals. How shall we celebrate? I’ll just go flip on the TV. I’m sure I’ll find a good idea.

© Brad Nixon 2018. None of the images herein may be copied or used for commercial purposes. Their appearance here does not imply any endorsement or approval of the products or agreement with the claims stated.

 


Responses

  1. (Sigh)
    One day in the barracks, I was lighting up a Winston, and said aloud, as Barney Rubble, “Winstons taste good, huh Fred?” and was answered by one of the guys, as Fred “Like a cigarette should, Barney.”
    Yep, before vitamins, the Flintstones sold cigs to kids.

    Like

    • To see Barney and Fred smoking: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ZRxBtZLeUY

      Like

    • BTW, they ARE smoking Winstons. I assume you knew that, at least back in barracks days.

      Like

      • I know they were, and I knew they were, and at the time it occurred to me, it really pist me off, and it still does.

        Like

      • I can’t hear you; the womenfolk are making too much noise, beating rugs and mowing the lawn. Let’s go around back where they won’t bother us and have a cigarette.

        Like

  2. Funny! And inspired, in a strange sort of way. Love the period pix, too. Bet that took some research.

    Like

    • Thank you. What I found was that I was quickly in the midst of 5,000 or 10,000 words’ worth of things to say about the history of cigarette advertising. I simply had to stop, because I’m not interested in writing a book on the subject — for certainly there must be a multitude of them already.

      Like

  3. My dad smoked Salems, so the first cigarettes I pilfered were Salems. By the second semester of my freshman year I’d decided I’d rather spend my money on something other than cigarettes, and that was the end of that.

    It does amaze me that I can remember those commercials so clearly, particularly Marlboro, Winston, and Lucky Strike — “so round, so firm, so fully packed.” I wonder how many people today would know what LS/MFT meant.

    I did hear something for the first time last week. A radio promotion for a movie (I don’t remember which one) said it contained “brief nudity, strong language, and historical smoking.” Given that history’s fallen into such disrepute, it’s good to know it’s getting a billing somewhere.

    As a side note, I’ve changed my default search engine to DuckDuckGo. When I looked for a vintage Lucky Strike ad, I got this notice: “YouTube (owned by Google) does not let you watch videos anonymously. As such, watching YouTube videos here will be tracked by YouTube/Google.” Then, there was an option to watch the video on the Duck, or move over to YouTube. Interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There was so much material: I was going to include Lucky Strike Means Fine Tobacco, but it had to go, along with lots of other tidbits. The post started — actually — with a discussion of Salem Oregon, then I started thinking of cigarette ad slogans, and they just kept coming. Brainwashed.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This made me laugh: “Let’s go around back where they won’t bother us and have a cigarette.” I suspect that’s exactly what my dad and my granddad were doing.

    Liked by 1 person


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