Is advertising evil?

lucky strike print advertisement with the copy saying that smoking is the easiest way to lose weight - published in 1928

How Lucky Strike invented a new use for smoking.

Year: 1930
Brand: Lucky Strike
Manufacturer: American Tobacco Company
Campaigns: Tempted to Over-indulge, ‘Reach for a Lucky Instead of a Sweet’
Usage: Fat Burner

In the 1920s, Lucky Strike unveiled an advertising campaign that was credited with increasing the brand’s cigarette sales by more than 300% in the first year.

Their slogan: “Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet.”

Slender figure model advertised by Lucky Strike
Lucky Strike promoting the health benefits of smoking a cigarette stating it reduces the temptation

The campaign encouraged women and men to smoke Lucky Strike cigarettes as a way of maintaining a slim physique. The Lucky cigarette was a perfect substitute for candy and other fattening junk foods – the advertisers claimed.

Lucky Strike realized that they had to increase the frequency of usage of the female consumer base. For this, they invented a new use for cigarettes (Luckies) that the demographic deeply cared about. So, they prayed onto female insecurities about weight and diet. And before the company knew it, both women and men started using cigarettes as a way to remain slim. The candy industry rose in protest against this campaign, forcing it to derail under threats of litigation eventually.

Advertising is not (always) the flag bearer of truth and honesty.

Be it as may, this won’t be the first time advertisers have used their brilliance for causes less noble. Ethics and advertising have been at a crossroads for many years.  Prompting us to ask:

  • Is advertising evil?
  • Should advertisers think about the impact of their work on society as a whole?
  • Is doing justice to the client the sole motive of advertising?

These are questions every advertiser must find an answer for themselves, because ‘with great power comes great responsibility.’

health benefits of smoking - a lucky strike ad
The health benefits of smoking – a fit personality as advertised by Lucky Strike in the 1920s

In the meantime, consumers must remember that advertising is not the flag bearer of truth and honesty.

Please note: Smoking is injurious to health.