Monday, April 11, 2011

Leonard McCombe and The Marlboro Man


If a picture is worth a thousand words, then Leonard McCombe's image that inspired the Marlboro Man campaign is worth over $15 billion.

The photograph above shows Clarence Hailey Young, a foreman at the JA Ranch in Texas. McCombe had set out on assignment by Life magazine to document the real way of life of these cowboys, dispelling the glamorous image of most Hollywood movies at that time for the harsh and difficult work of ranching reality. 

Something in that 1949 photo must have caught the eye of legendary advertising executive Leo Burnett who later used it as his template for the Marlboro Man. Young's wrinkled and unshaven face framed by a large cowboy hat and bandana around his neck looked perfect to the ad executive. The fact that he had a lit cigarette on his lips probably convinced Mr. Burnett to choose the cowboy lifestyle for his advertising campaign.

The campaign for Marlboro was meant to include other macho professions, but the cowboy image emerged to be the clear winner. The choice obviously worked for Phillip Morris as the original filtered cigarettes which were first advertised for women as "Mild as May" became the winning ingredient when one tried to picture the place "Where the Flavor is." Within two years, sales of the cigarette increased three-fold.

Darren Winfield was the first commercial Marlboro Man, with many other actors and real cowboys following in his footsteps. Similarly, many photographers, including Jim Krantz and Sam Abell were commissioned to make the iconic ads.

Ultimately, the campaign would last just until counter-campaigns from health advocates became too overwhelming. It didn't help that some of the actors used in the ads later died of lung cancer.

While most tobacco companies nowadays have shifted their advertising campaigns away from the cowboy image, the original idea has been considered to be one of the most successful ad campaigns of all time. And to think that McCombe's Marlboro Man shot sparked the idea that would be worth millions of dollars from what was originally a ladies' cigarette.

146 comments:

Fang said...

Smoking is bad and stinks, what is this

mious said...

blah, smokes, but good post nonetheless

The Angry Lurker said...

What an iconic photo, what a face, that is windswept and sun scorched and a stare that could start fires.

psyke said...

Yes, it is bad but I liked their campaign. I feel bad because the ads on cigarettes are restricted.

Wintermute said...

its so crazy to think that this one choice in advertisement made such a huge impact on the company. To think of what would happen had they gone with something else ya know?

Alphabeta said...

Interesting stuff. He wasn't all that attractive but I guess that's part of the appeal.

J.B. said...

Great foto, but I still won't smoke

lowfrequencies said...

they made smoking seem so glamorous back then. is aw an old ad the other day about doctors choose camel cigarettes haha

thenitefalls said...

Marlboro were genius marketers. This must be one the reasons they are well known today.

tiowa said...

Nice post! Following

notforeverybody said...

cool pic...

BM said...

indeed a great photo. Amazing how much impressions it carries

n0kS Phr33d0m said...

This man (in the picture) remembers me so much of the 'Cigarette Man' from X-Files!
Btw, nice blog! I'll follow ;)

Jaccstev said...

The Marlboro Man, now that's an iconic one!

CandleintheDark said...

This is iconic. It sucks that the companies had so much success fighting the critics to kill so many

der said...

Nice picture, but how many people have died as a result of the slick marketing of a concept?

Zombie said...

Now thats a man right there! lol.

Kicking Rocks said...

didnt he die, of cancer?

Whereas said...

i had no clue about the advertising history of marlboro, its kind of brilliant.

Icepax_Nmir said...

True that the marketing was good, but cigarettes still are bad for you... So is cancer

Azoo said...

I am willing to bet that in time these sorts of advertisements will come back. As the generations change . . . so do the perspectives.

Stare Dad said...

I smoke. And i look like that :)

duffboi said...

Never knew the picture came first! Good picture, tho.

Scott said...

Yeah, can't stand smoking at all but that's a great photograph.

Drej said...

I'm not a fan of smoking either but the Marlboro Man Campaign is legendary. And I didn't even know it was supposed to be a ladies' cigarette...

Mo said...

great photo

Devon Davidson said...

They pretty much did a 180 with that ad, shows how good it was.

Laughing Vault said...

i hate cigaretes

Moby said...

i hate smoking but i am very impressed with their advertising/marketing techniques.

+followed for a very well written post. I look forward to reading more in the future.

come check out my fishes blog if you have some extra time!

D4 said...

So that's the photo that started it all. I hate cigarettes with a burning passion (lol) but I do find the iconic figure of the Marlboro man overwhelming. Thanks for the interesting read.

Necroticism said...

Oh God, the Malboro theme was in my head while I read this D:

Dudemeister said...

Those Marlboro commercials featured the Magnificent Seven theme, right?

Morde said...

Pretty interesting about the advertising strategy!

My family smokes marlboro so, something has to work I guess.

Shutterbug said...

smoking is gross! :(

ed said...

the cowboy lifestyle was so fake

DerpFiles said...

Welcome to flavor country. I don't think I've seen cig ads in a long time. I'm old and from the south so they used to be EVERYWHERE.

Banacek said...

It was indeed some brilliant advertising.

Obi-wan Mikenobi said...

Against the law to advertise cigarettes in my country :/

DynamiteGanja said...

The tobacco industries must have spent hundreds of millions of dollars back in the day to become huge

Grafted said...

Definitely a successful ad campaign

BTN Hip Hop said...

it really brought out the whole cigs are macho thing

Moob said...

very powerful looking man

Mike said...

This makes me want to smoke a cigarette, just to look badass.

Long_Ding said...

Sweet picture. The man has a very interesting stare. It captures your attention.

randomer said...

Brilliant advertising. I guess if it works go with it, can't blame them for trying.

Trolske said...

I'm a non-smoker, but I LOVED the Malboro ads before movies in the cinema. Unfortunatly all smoking ads were banned from cinema :'(

Slamcakes said...

Totally just thought about "Thank You for Smoking" when they tried to bribe the Marlboro Man to stop him from talking

Mike said...

marboro really knew what they were doing when marking this image. its a strong and admirable one which made it easy to target to so many different people

Dailynewsfacts said...

Great to know the history of the cowbow photo,

p said...

thats a nice picture of him

THUNDERCAT832 said...

He looks hella gangsta for some odd reason!

Not a Troll said...

The irony is overwhelming...

THRASHER said...

he is such a boss

Potholderz said...

This pictures gives me chills.

OatmealStout said...

Smoking used to be bad-ass :P

Guy Movie Blogger said...

As much as I hate smoking, I've gotta hand it to Marlboro and this iconic image. Also, the cowboy looks a lot like Ed Harris!

Trelin said...

Now we just need a marlboro man of green leafy vegetables and we're good.

Cafe La Douleur said...

Smoking, overall, just kills and the advertising kills even more

ribar said...

he looks like so much like a bad ass

Butcher Bradley said...

Tobacco's bad mkaay.

Astronomy Pirate said...

A harsh face for a harsh world, a great advertising campaign and image. It's to bad all the problems with cigarettes were discovered.

xxobernoobxx said...

Isn't he dead now?

Matt Neumann said...

Classic!

Biff Tanner said...

$15 billion seems a little low.

The Freeze said...

thank you for posting this. Very informative, and while I am a smoker, this def pushes me more towards quitting!

R.C said...

I think an advertisement of him came alive during a simpsons Halloween special.

Malkavian said...

The freaking Marlboro man

Meghan Moran said...

I literally have to smoke a cigarette right this instant.

Egan said...

Interesting to know the back story

Rockinrule said...

This man is a stud.

Leestander said...

so more i look at the picture so more stupid does the cancer stick looks.. :/

Rob said...

That was amazing knowledge to learn! Thanks for that :D

Ray Rousell said...

Certainly is an iconic image.

Colin B said...

the cigarette probably wasn't even a marlboro :x

aikino said...

It´s amazing how this symbol is still recognized internationally.

Salman A said...

Very nice write-up. Enjoyed this post. Thanks for sharing!

Joe said...

Badass photo.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Say what you will about the evils of tobacco, they sure funded the most creative ad campaigns of all time.

Canon said...

Iconic photo, I'm not a smoker though :P

Jacob said...

heard about him first in "Thank you for smoking". Good movie.

jblogger45 said...

nice pic

G said...

iconic photo

Blair said...

Great post! Keep up the great blog, I'll be sure to return :)

mac-and-me said...

amazing potrait

treadus said...

Yes, he did die, and I never knew that the pic was originally unrelated to Marlboro

erics said...

classic. 'nuff said.

pixel said...

cool info, learned stuff today here

Inhia said...

Just the man I want to be... shit better start smoking

Cherene said...

even i wanna be him and i'm not a dude

Kamchatka said...

This was a very interesting article! I went on a long tangent learning more about this clever marketing.

Taylor said...

those types of smokes are "Cowboy Killers"

Elliot MacLeod-Michael said...

You'd think they would just market on the platform that smoking cures cancer.

Kanika Bishnoi said...

He looks so Smart...!

Patti D. said...

He is so suave... nice campaign, I hate smoke, tho. lol

Kimi-Chan said...

This is such a wonderful photograph. As a amateur photographer I know how hard it is to capture people on film that does them justice. This is simply a work of art. Everything just captures his personality so well and its like I actually know what kind of a person he is just by this one photo. I'm not surprised this is just a famous piece. The brilliance of it just shines and commands attention.

MrBunni said...

People that smoke usually stink, i hate that.
The picture looks pretty good.

world explorer said...

Nice blog....and that man has a great personality but when it comes to me i just hate smoking....

Glovey said...

Great work! I love the blog style!

Marcus said...

I hate smokers. The smell is horrible :S

ds said...

Marlboro man sure looks macho, can't deny that. Of course if it looks cool doesn't mean it's good for you.

JapRoulette said...

Marlboro ftw!

datmeenjeniet said...

Such an awesome picture. Too bad they don't use it anymore.. This guy made people smoke! Aaah the good old days...

Abletonian said...

Lovely, I need a smoke!

Joe BB said...

smoking is a health risk but there is no denying that it makes you look cool.

Joe BB said...

also... there are plenty of other ways to get cancer...

gangsignslol said...

A real goddamn man

DocStout said...

Classic shot. Doesn't make me want to take up smoking again, but an iconic image nonetheless.

Dale said...

Wow, great post. Cowboys are definitely pretty cool, even if cigs aren't I can see why those images worked the best for their product. I love these old western shots, I just bought a black and white John Wayne photo the other day.

Nice post and thanks for your comment on mine too. Glad I can help teach accesorizing ;)
Dale

Fred Rickerson said...

A true gentlemen, and a truely awesome photo to boot.

BennyBeatz said...

this is pretty dope, keep em comign!

doomsday said...

I quit smoking 3 month ago after 10 years!

Lhosreiff said...

He looks silly, I always hated the cowboy look.

Ivan Montiel said...

Look at that man.

Just look at him.

Intraman said...

waw, great photo and really interesting writing. I'll be coming back for more!

Leo Stahl said...

He looks bad ass! Very informative post, thanks.

Wayward Disposition said...

This is an awesome picture. I love old black and white photos.

MRanthrope said...

that stoic look on his face....haunting.

=dgrphx= said...

damn it i need a smoke

-DO- said...

thx god i quit smoking 2 years ago

Razor said...

huh, go figure!

Lemmiwinks said...

great post as always

The Old Master said...

Looks like Johnny Depp!

John said...

What a classic image.

Electric Addict said...

just goes to show how important image and brand are to a product

Alexandra said...

I can't see the picture !! :-(.
Smoking is eeeky lol!

Team Panda said...

the marlboro man! you have to give it to the cig companies, they know how to advertise.

Beau Thompson said...

Oh wow. I wish I have 173 comments on my blog! Good job on building a successful page, dude!

ggtbishop said...

such an interesting post, i love the story behind the photo

Necroticism said...

Moar!!

N4M3L3SS said...

wow what i great pic, i always wanted to be a cowboy lol

las3R said...

Heh little piece of interesting info d;

Anette said...

So the actors died of lung cancer.. What a surprise! Smoking is bad, but I have to admit the pic is cool though.

tissue rejection said...

That guy is the most badass man alive.

Ryan said...

Siq Post Bro

Siq Post Bro

The Game Store Guy said...

The irony doesn't escape me that so many died of lung cancer. :/ Classic foto though.

JaksonHunt said...

What a bad ass!

J said...

they dont make men like that anymore.

Naxorrø said...

awesome pics man

Brock said...

Wow, that's such an iconic photo, great to know some of the history surrounding it, thanks

Bart said...

i dont know about u guys but i can sure go for a burger

Rorschach Redemption said...

That is one rugged dude.

LoreBlogger said...

that's a bad ass pic

C Mo Gunz said...

Cool photo man! this guy's definitely a winner!!

followed.

Leanora's Blog said...

You cant fault cigarette company for there very successful advertising campaigns. It worked for them, especially this one.

HiFi said...

A very cool photo.

Lana Payne Barnett said...

The Marlboro Man's name was Clarence Hailey Long and he worked on the world famous JA Ranch in the Texas Panhandle. He was shy and unassuming, the photo was made for a Life Magazine feature on Cowboys. Phillip Morris chose the photo for an ad campaign for it's Marlboro brand. He didn't smoke Marlboros but actually rolled his own cigarettes. After the photo appeared he had marriage proposals from all over the country.....He was offered $20,000, a lot of money in the '50s, to do a beer ad and turned it down. He died in 1978 at the age of 68 from natural causes, not lung cancer. The photo has been chosen in the top ten best photographs published by Time Magazine.

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