In 1949, Lucky launched the first of its “cute” campaigns – “Smoke a Lucky to Feel your Level Best!” This campaign, along with the subsequent “There’s never a rough puff in a Lucky” and “Be Happy – Go Lucky!” are all lumped together into this “cute” category, featuring very young, smiling ladies beside striking copy text. Most noticeably, the ads portray models smoking in the most improbable, ridiculous situations: while skiing down a slope, while balancing on a man’s shoulders in the ocean, while steering a toboggan. The “Feel your Level Best” campaign presented Lucky smokers as young, vibrant, athletic, happy, and full of vitality. Without claiming health benefits outright, Lucky Strike managed to portray its brand as healthy and enticing through the campaign. However, the “Level Best” slogan poses incongruities, as well. Does it imply that other cigarettes made a smoker feel bad, whereas Luckies made the smoker feel best, but still not as good as if the smoker refrained from smoking? Or does the slogan work to propel the myth that cigarettes are healthy, claiming that Luckies are even healthier? Either way, the message appears to falsely indicate that Luckies will make a person feel the best they possibly could.
One of the young models hired for this campaign, Janet Sackman, has recently spoken out against smoking. Sackman had posed for a number of the Lucky ads in this theme. A 1993 New York Times article features a story on the model which reveals that Sackman was just 17 at the time of shooting the Lucky Strike advertisements. She explains that during one of her shoots, “a middle-aged tobacco executive was there,” and that he urged her to pick up smoking so that she would “know how to hold a cigarette, or puff on a cigarette” for future advertisements (1). She claims that from that point on, as a 17 year-old, she began smoking and was hooked. Then, in 1983 at age 51, she was diagnosed with throat cancer and had her larynx (“voice box”) removed. Ironic, of course, for the model for a campaign which touted health and happiness.
1. Herbert, Bob. “In America; ‘If I had Known’ New York Times. 21 Nov 1993.