Date: 1937
Brand: Lucky Strike
Manufacturer: American Tobacco Company
Campaign: Singers & Performers
Theme: For your Throat
Keywords: Female, Throat, Voice, Irritation, Toasted, Light, Opera, Singer, Elisabeth Rethberg
Quote: I have been enjoying Luckies for about fourteen years. When I first came to America, I noticed that opera singers hare smoke a great deal more than singers abroad. Now I think the reason. is that so many American singers have discovered that their voices and throats are safe with a light smoke. That, at least, has been my own experience as a casual smoker. The fact that Luckies are a light smoke gives me a sense of ease about my throat.

Comment: Soprano Elisabeth Rethberg (1894-1976) reportedly finds voice and throat safe with Luckies. Born and raised in Germany, Rethberg made her Metropolitan Opera debut in 1922, and continued to sing with the Met in over 30 roles for 20 seasons. However, by the end of the 1930s Rethberg s voice had reportedly given out, and she retired from the stage in 1942, just five years after this ad was printed. In this advertisement, Rethberg announces that opera singers here smoke a great deal more than singers abroad, and attributes this observation to the American singers discovery of Lucky Strike. She claims that singers who smoke Luckies discovered that their voices and throats are safe. She is sure to point out, however, that though she has smoked Lucky Strike for 14 years, she is merely a casual smoker. Still, this ad and the others in the Metropolitan Opera series of Lucky Strike ads lead consumers to believe that opera singers are puffing on cigarettes between acts while maintaining perfect voices.

Singers & Performers

In the 1920s, tobacco companies began enlisting hundreds of celebrities to endorse their products. In these advertisements, movie stars, famous singers, athletes, and even socialites graced the pages of popular magazines, editorials, and newspapers printed across the country. The 1920s and 1930s were the heyday of celebrity endorsement, with celebrities hawking everything from cigarettes to soap, from pantyhose to cars. However, it seems that no company was as prolific in its celebrity ad copy as Lucky Strike.

Singers were vital components of celebrity testimonial campaigns for cigarette companies; the emphasis on healthy, clear voices in the singers line of work was an ideal avenue for portraying cigarettes as healthful, rather than harmful. The concept was that if a famous singer entrusted her voice and throat her source of revenue to a cigarette brand, then it must not be so bad! If it s good enough for Frank Sinatra, it s good enough for me, a consumer might decide. It is ironic, of course, that these ads also worked to reveal the possible side effects of smoking by providing a problem (irritated throats, for example) and a solution (smoke our brand.) Still, this problem-solution advertising was very popular at the time, and worked to position one brand as the exception to the problem rule or as the least problematic of all cigarette brands. It also served to trivialize health side effects of smoking, masking more serious side effects in the process.

Stars were also used to attract a younger crowd. Stars were glamorous and represented a walk of life attractive to consumers who were already invested in tabloids and the lives of the show business elite. It wasn t until 1964 that tobacco companies were banned from using testimonials from athletes, entertainers, and other famous personalities who might be appealing to consumers under 21 years of age.

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