Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review Jan. 18, 2002 / 5 Shevat, 5762

Lenore Skenazy

JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
James Glassman
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Marlboro's surprising gift to U.S. -- FRIENDS, smokers, Marlboro Men: I come to praise and bury Don Tennant, the ad genius who made Marlboro the world's most macho smoke.

Doing so, he sold untold cigarettes and, indirectly, respirators, coffins and tissues. Not good, agreed. But he also changed the way the world sees America and the way America sees its men - for the better.

Tennant died last month at age 79 after a long advertising career, including 20 years at the Leo Burnett agency, where he was in charge of the Marlboro account in the early '50s.

Back then, Camels were king of the pack. Pathetic Marlboros were limping along as a lady's smoke, "Mild as May." They even had red filter tips designed to hide lipstick stains!

When Tennant got the account, he realized the brand needed, well, a makeover. But what could possibly make it manly enough to obscure its tearoom roots? Enter William Thourlby, a not-so-great-looking guy.

At 6-feet-4, with deep-set eyes, a battered nose and a history of modeling - as the tough guy grabbing girls on the cover of countless "True Confessions" - Thourlby was just plain rugged.

Still, his agent sent him on a casting call, and a few months later he stood barechested on billboards across America, smoking the supertough cigarette with the vaguely familiar name.

The horses came later, as did the cowboys. But starting with Thourlby (alive and well, living on Central Park South, by the way - it was two later Marlboro models who died of lung cancer), Tennant's campaign was at least partly responsible for changing the American ideal of male beauty.

"Up till that time," recalls Thourlby, "the good-looking guys were Tyrone Power and Robert Taylor - so handsome, they were beautiful!" Tennant was smart enough to realize "there were a lot more guys who looked liked me." So he made ordinary cool.

Fifty years later, the tough guys are still trumping the pretty boys.

But the ad campaign did more than just improve the image of the average guy. "It proved the power of advertising," says Fred Danzig, former editor of Advertising Age. Now, worldwide, one out of every four cigarettes smoked is a Marlboro.

The brand's appeal comes not just from the cowboy, but his surroundings, a place so ingrained in the world's imagination that foreigners actually ask their travel agents about tours to Marlboro Country.

These days, as we learn more and more about the many nations that see us as corrupt and depraved, it's at least a little comforting to think we are also considered the land of pristine vistas and independent cattlemen.

Don Tennant may have sold millions of would-be cowboys on smoking. But he also sold American women on plain old American men, and the American ideal to the world.

That's nothing to cough at.

JWR contributor Lenore Skenazy is a columnist for The New York Daily News. Comment by clicking here.


01/08/02: Hospitals make me sick
01/02/02: Read-Aloud Resolutions
12/21/01: Nothing's Worse/Than Bad Verse
12/18/01: This Little Dog Bytes
12/13/01: Palm Pilot or Calendar? Paper Wins
12/07/01: The gift of 9/11
12/03/01: Altria Is Really Smokin'

© 2002, New York Daily News