The artifact that I have chosen to review is the Lucky Strikes poster by The American Tobacco Company in 1929. The poster portrays a woman leaned over sensually so that just the top half of her torso and head are visible. Both of her arms are crossed and her face is tilted upwards towards whomever is the viewer, lips pursed. The message is simple, “To keep a slender figure no one can deny… reach for a lucky instead of a sweet.” In smaller letters, “It’s Toasted!” across the bottom, as well as a promise that these cigarettes will not make you cough. Through this image we get a pretty clear picture of what life was like in the late 1920’s, so long as we also take into consideration what isn’t in the poster.
The first thing we notice in this poster is the well-manicured woman. Women in advertising was not a new concept, nor would it fade away in the coming years. This repetitive use of a woman’s body or traits for a purpose is what makes it somewhat of a motif or symbol in advertising. Chernus notes that when “images function as symbols they affect us both intellectually and emotionally, both consciously and unconsciously. They communicate several different, often divergent, sometimes even contradictory, meanings simultaneously.” The purpose of this woman was to market to other women of her stature. We can assume, unconsciously, that this woman is fairly well off from the fact that A. she has the opportunity to reach for a sweet which implies a disposable income and B. her hair is in looser curls, rather than the tight flapper haircut. This hairstyle, as noted in Smithsonian Mag, was less polished than the years previous, marking the start of the Great Depression well.
The myth of the need for the weight of a woman to be slim for societal judgement is also not a new idea. Chernus states again, “ Myths may generally have more fiction than fact, but sometimes the fact outweighs the fiction. “ The fiction here is that you need to smoke to be thin, or need to think about being thin more often than is realistic. The fact here is that oftentimes it is better to lay off the sweets and keep balanced. The propagated fact of a woman’s “health” equalling her thinness has become in many ways a part of our civic ideologies. It is seen in the media nowadays and the amount of products marketed towards it have increased exponentially.
However, one of the most interesting myths that the American public was subject to was the idea that cigarettes were good for you. Taking a wider lens on the poster, it is quite clear that it is insinuating that Lucky Strikes would keep you healthy. In fact, the campaign went further in the following year to come out and say that doctors themselves smoked. The following poster was taken from a 1930’s Lucky Strikes campaign via the Stanford University Research into the Impact of Tobacco Advertising. http://tobacco.stanford.edu/tobacco_main/images.php?token2=fm_st002.php&token1=fm_img0101.php&theme_file=fm_mt001.php&theme_name=Doctors%20Smoking&subtheme_name=20,679%20Physicians
The doctor ( a man, so as to gain trust that he was a good doctor) is holding a large pack of cigarettes. This number, 20,679, was proven later to be completely arbitrary and merely more believable “than a rounded number.” The Lucky Strikes campaign proved in a simple feat of advertising how easy it is to get the American Public to buy into whatever you want to sell them. The initial breach of the topic of health into cigarette sales may have started with the female physique, but it was brought home with the doctors orders.