All that glis­ters

Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - CONTENTS -

Some of the most mem­o­rable ads in his­tory are for cig­a­rettes. Could there be a more en­dur­ing sym­bol of brood­ing, self-re­liant mas­culin­ity than the Marl­boro Man? And if you had to roll out one fem­i­nist slo­gan from ad­ver­tis­ing, wouldn’t it be “You’ve come a long way, baby”?

The thing is, when your prod­uct is a foul-smelling form of slow death, your ads need to be good.

Not that they al­ways were. In one in­cred­i­ble crime against taste, a cig­a­rette brand called Tarey­ton ran an en­dur­ing cam­paign that fea­tured mod­els (some­times men, of­ten pretty women) sport­ing black eyes (ob­vi­ously painted on, but still) and claim­ing “I’d rather fight than switch”. Mean­ing, I’d rather take one in the face than change my cig­a­rette brand. Those ads ran in the US for al­most 20 years.

Here in New Zealand, tobacco com­pa­nies were banned from TV and ra­dio ad­ver­tis­ing from 1963, so they poured their money into spon­sor­ship of sport, clev­erly link­ing their prod­uct with fit­ness, viril­ity, win­ning... Ba­si­cally ev­ery­thing cig­a­rettes can­cel out.

And of course, for more than 30 years tobacco paid for our coun­try’s glitzi­est fash­ion event, the Ben­son & Hedges Fash­ion De­sign Awards, in­spir­ing the young and clever and bring­ing glam­our and Bob Parker into our liv­ing rooms. For those fancy enough to at­tend, the tick­ets re­sem­bled the brand’s gold boxes. And back­stage among the beau­ti­ful mod­els and crew the com­pli­men­tary cig­gies flowed like honey.

It was He­len Clark (health min­is­ter at the time) who spoiled all the fun. The event be­came the Smoke­free Fash­ion De­sign Awards which promised to “take the ash out of fash­ion” but sadly took most of the cash out too. It was all over within two years.

He­len copped flak. “The awards were a glit­ter­ing oc­ca­sion... Ms Clark’s at­tack will have left a sour taste,” ed­i­to­ri­alised The Do­min­ion. His­tory is on He­len’s side. That money did come from a dark place. But the memories (cel­e­brated on page 10)... They are gold.

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