Essay On Analysis of the Marlboro Man advert

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Analysis of the Marlboro Man advert

The aim of this paper is to analyze and explore a printed marketing text developed for Philip Morris’ brand of cigarettes Marlboro. The reason behind the selection of this advert is that cigarette ads are made to be appealing to many buyers. It contains special features that make it more attractive to customers. As a result, the brand becomes more attractive to the customers the ad was targeting. The analysis is done by using semiotic and iconological approaches together with other analysis methods. The analysis targets to the hidden meanings within the text and the image that may be perhaps invisible without closer scrutiny (Walter 39).

This paper specifically focuses on the 1971 printed advert that featured the Marlboro Man character. The prominent feature on the image is a man riding a horse through water. He is holding a whip-like object and a cane. The background is blurred and difficult to state what is there. However, it has a mixture of colors; brown that has unclear streaks of white. The water the horse is riding through can give a conclusion that the image is in the outdoors where there is a lot of space. Strikingly, there is no image of the product the advert is advertising. The man does not hold any cigarettes while riding the horse nor is there an image of cigarettes anywhere in the image. The image has a bold word stating the product name Marlboro. In addition, there is a compulsory health warning that warns of the risks of cigarette smoking.

Similar to other Marlboro adverts, this advert presents a sombre and lonely mood. The colors of the image may initiate negative moods to viewers that in turn may trigger them to smoke (Walter 59). The colors can also trigger anxiety that may false viewers want to take a cigarette break. Using the Marlboro Man is a strategy aimed at rebranding the brand in order to target men. Initially, the cigarettes were targeting women and thus rebranding was done to change the target group to men. This advert had to be more aggressive and bolder so as to attract men and was different from the earlier milder adverts that targeted women. The advert, therefore, had to contain a character that brought masculinity to the advert. A cowboy is used to represent a figure of appeal. The dressing of the cowboy with a red shirt represents his sexuality and emphasizes his self-esteem. The Marlboro man is riding a stallion that is under his control indicating a sense of strength.

The word ‘Marlboro’ is spread across the top of the image with some letters behind the man on the horse. The most obvious meaning is that it states the name of the brand being marketed by the company. A deeper meaning may be derived from personal thoughts and perceptions of the potential clientele. The warning remarks at the bottom of the ad give an explicit warning on the effects of smoking on one’s health. Some viewers may brush it off to be just a mandatory disclaimer that has to be there (Walter 101).

In conclusion, the advert can be termed as a success. In a symbolic point of view, the image and characters speak volumes. Overall success of the marketing campaign can be attributed to the fact that there is no evident display of smoking, cigarettes or even the brand name in full. Marlboro is among the most successful products around the world today.


Walter, Jascha. Advertising, Cigarette Brands and Smokers - an Analysis of Different Cigarette Brands, Their Target Groups and the Conveyed Customer Images. München: GRIN Verlag GmbH, 2009. Internet resource.