Tuesday, May 17, 2016


THE PHILIPPINES IS MARLBORO COUNTRY. The local adaptation of the immensely-successful Marlboro advertising campaign featured familiar scenic spots like lakes in exotic Zamboanga, Banaue Rice Terraces, Taal Volcano and Manila's skyline--instead of rugged Western frontiers. 1965.

Pix: philosophyofshaving. wordpress.com
Marlboro Cigarettes of Philip Morris  gave the advertising world the most iconic brand image of the century—the Marlboro Man—the macho and rugged American cowboy that catapulted the cigarette brand as the best-selling cigarette in the world.

The Marlboro Man campaign was a sharp detour from the 50s beginnings of the brand, when Marlboro was advertised to appeal to women smokers with a taste that’s as “mild as May”.

The agency Leo Burnett, in its attempt to expand the appeal of Marlboro, created the masculine icon accompanied by the slogan “delivers the goods on flavor”.

The campaign was an immediate success, and the Marlboro Man was rolled out nationwide in the U.S. in 1955, resulting in sale of over $5 billion, an astounding 3,124% increase from 1954.

The agency then shifted to other manly types—from tattooed men, devil race car drivers and ball players—all of which proved to be effective.


The cowboy character however, came back in 1964—in a new mythical environ---the Marlboro Country, where these virile men in white hats rode their horses into the sunset, sat quietly before campfires, with flames crackling, an open Marlboro pack in their hands. The slogan was an invitation to "Come to where the flavor is”. The memorable soundtrack music was actually from the 1961 movie "The Magnificent Seven",  composed by Al Caiola. The version of Oscar award-winner Henry Mancini became very popular. 

MARLBORO MAN trailblazing in Taal. Print Ad. 1966

The Marlboro Man in Marlboro Country was launched in the Philippines at the beginning of 1965. It made use of images of the American cowboy considered by Leo Burnett as "an almost universal symbol of admired masculinity.”

The Marlboro Country settings, however, were localized, perhaps to connect with Filipinos. Instead of  America’s wild frontiers, the Marlboro Man was seen marveling at the world’s smallest volcano in Taal , viewing  the vintas of Zamboanga, contemplating the wonders of Banaue Rice Terraces and watching the high rises of modern Manila.

MARLBORO MAN at the World's 8th Wonder-Banawe Rice Terraces,1966

The print ads were obviously re-composed, but the bizarre visual anachronisms did not matter to the Filipino consumer—the local adaptation of the U.S. campaign was a blockbuster hit, sending hordes of  consumers huffing and puffing Marlboro sticks.

The ominous health care warnings against cigarettes as a cause of lung cancer were publicized in 1957. But even when cigarette advertising was banned from TV in 1971,  the Marlboro Man continued to fuel the growth of the brand, By 1972, Marlboro was the No. 1 tobacco brand in the world.

MARLBORO MAN gets lost in the concrete jungles of Manila. Print ad, 1965.

But more upheavals were coming as anti-smoking movements spread all over America. A Master Settlement Agreement in the 1990s abolished outdoor advertising for cigarettes.  Then , the Food and Drug Administration won regulatory control over the tobacco industry that led to the limiting of sale of branded merchandise, the banning of sports and entertainment sponsorships, and youth market targeting.

It was just a matter of time that the Philippines followed suit. On 23 June 2003,  Republic Act 9211 or the "Act Regulating the Packaging, Use, Sale Distribution and Advertisements of Tobacco Products and for Other Purposes" was by Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. In 2007, TV,  radio, movie theaters and outdoor advertising were banned, and in 2008, event sponsorships. The law also prevents celebrities from endorsing tobacco products in advertising. Promotion is limited to point-of-sale and sari-sari store and  in select establishments like restaurants, bars and billiard halls.

MARLBORO MAN RETURNS, Back Cover, April 2000 issue of LIFE Magazine.

The Marlboro Man – a commercial icon both revered and reviled and revered—continues to make its presence felt  in the U.S. today, albeit not in traditional mainstream channels but in direct-to-consumer communications.

A sad postscript to the campaign were the deaths of models David Millar (d.1987, age 81), Wayne Mclaren (d.1992, age 51), David McLean (d.1995, age 73), and Eric Lawson (d.2014, age 72) who all appeared as Marlboro cowboys in countless Marlboro Country ads. They all passed away from cigarette-related lung diseases.

ERIC LAWSON, Marlboro Man from 1978-1981, died of chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease caused by smoking. Picture source:


  1. marlboro is the best marketable in the philippines,

  2. About the Marlboro ad which depicted MARLBORO MAN getting "lost in the concrete jungles of Manila," the background, I think, was actually in Hong Kong, although that scenery looked like Manila to my eyes.

  3. my father's favorite since he was 17.