May 3rd, 2012

Perspective: Waiting to Exhale

By Robert Klara

Smoking will never be as cool as it was in the 1950s, but evoking those days can at least make for a cool ad.

In 1955, the American Tobacco Co.’s Herbert Tareyton brand was attempting to adjust to changing tastes by touting its new, easy-drawing charcoal filter, a replacement for the older filters made of cork. The result was the ad at right, which likens a Tareyton smoke to taking in a harbor breeze. Just how credible that message was is tough to say, but viewed in a broader context, the filter tip wasn’t really the point of the ad anyway—nor was it the point of any of the thousands like it from the midcentury. Instead, the aim was to create a world of pleasant associations around smoking itself. “This ad is about opulence, wealth and easy living,” said Peter Madden, founder of the Philadelphia-based branding agency AgileCat. “It was saying, welcome to our world. I think it’s brilliant.”

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