Picture this. It’s 1929 [round figures 90 years ago] and we’re in the great depression. The American Tobacco Company figured that if they could get “the other half” [women] to smoke outdoors, they’d be taking a lot more bags of money to the bank. “But how” was the million - dollar question. They called on Edward Barneys to help. As a publicity man, Barneys had unusual credentials. He was Sigmund Freud’s nephew and as such based his consultancy practice on the notion that “irrational forces” drive human behavior. He also preached the gospel that persuasive communication must “create news in order to appeal to the instincts and fundamental emotions of the public.”
The outdoor smoking of cigarettes by women was taboo. However, in women’s minds cigarettes symbolized male power. Male Power | Female Taboo. Interesting tension. Big idea: create a movement that liberates women using the symbol of male power, the cigarette. Equating smoking with challenging male power was the cornerstone of Lucky Strike's "Torches of Freedom" campaign. Bernays enrolled debutantes into the campaign by pitching the idea that they would contribute to the expansion of women's rights by lighting up cigarettes [“torches”] and smoking them in the most prestigious of places - Fifth Avenue, New York.
The press was primed beforehand and couldn't resist the story. The "Torches of Freedom Parade" was covered not only by the local papers, but also by newspapers nationwide and internationally. It worked big time. The event made front-page news and opened editorial debate from coast to coast. Word of mouth spread, well, like wild fire. Women experienced a new - found freedom and took pride and joy in smoking outdoors. The whole cigarette category expanded hugely with American Tobacco and Lucky Strike benefiting most. [Rather than marketing peripheral product differences, leaders often maximize profit by expanding the whole category rather than marketing peripheral differences].
Let’s stay on cigarettes but fast forward 80 years. America’s most awarded Creative Director, Alex Bogusky believed that advertising should grab the audience’s attention in disruptive ways. "Anything and everything is an ad”. Startling guerrilla tactics, unconventional uses of media, and holistic marketing strategies that tie together everything, from product design to packaging to event marketing to stuff that can't even be categorized, was the order of the day at Crispin, Porter + Bogusky. What the agency used sparingly however was TV.
One of its first campaign amply illustrates all this. The objective was to get teenagers to stop smoking or stop smoking before they even started. Agency staffers went out at night with video cameras and talked to local teenagers. The insight was that typical “this will kill you” antismoking advertising paradoxically made rebellious kids want to smoke even more. Cigarettes tapped into the teen’s desire to establish identities, be associated with brands and take risks. For an antismoking campaign to work, teens had to be turned against the big, bad tobacco industry.
The idea was to create and promote an "anti-brand" that would hook teens. This brand was called: “Truth”, and a logo was created for it. Then the logo was plastered on posters, leaflets, T-shirts, stickers, and other gear. Impromptu live events were staged along with stunts like teen activists placing crank phone calls to tobacco marketing executives and showing up unannounced in tobacco company lobbies. The "Truth" website served as information central for the whole campaign. Amazing stories, word of mouth and big results.
Sheer ingenuity clearly drove both these campaigns. We also see what an important role PR | Publicity play in the campaign mix. The final point I want to make relates to my own work: the quest for a compelling insight. “Torches” was based on a brilliant insight that cigarettes are symbols of male power so women smoking them publicly would be an expression of their liberation. “Truth” was based on young people’s instinct to fight big bad institutions. Conclusion: insight and ingenuity work wonders.