In today’s episode, Alexis and Melissa take a look at the famous Lucky Strike Cigarettes marketing campaign that successfully got women in America to start smoking. What many don’t know is the campaign culminated in one of the first PR stunts that involved influencers. 

The story begins in 1928, when George Washington Hill, former president of the American Tobacco Company, took over efforts for Lucky Strike Cigarettes. Back then, Lucky Strike dominated when it came to market share, but Hill wanted more growth. He knew that if he could get women to start smoking, Lucky Strike would hit a “gold mine.”  

Back then, it was taboo for women to smoke. Only women who were villains in movies were ever seen to be smoking cigarettes in pop culture. 

In effort to get it to become socially acceptable for women to smoke, Hill hired the famous public relations strategist Edward Bernays. Bernays was popular at this time in America for his efforts with the U.S. Government in getting the public to support the U.S. involvement in WWI—he was also known for being related to Sigmund Freud, who was his uncle. 

Hill gave Bernays a retainer of $25,000 (equivalent to $400,000 today) to begin his campaign to get women to smoke Lucky Strike cigarettes. What Bernays did next was speak with psychologists to try and determine how he could get women to smoke. He calculated he could frame it in such a way that fell in line with the justice of women’s rights in society. 

The episode culminates on Easter morning of March 31st, 1929 at the annual Easter Parade on 5th Avenue in New York City. Bernays knew this event as one of the biggest women’s gatherings of the year, as companies flaunt their latest spring clothing releases on their models.  

So, what does Bernays do? He works his PR magic.  

Listen through to the end to find out specifically how he did it, and how Lucky Strike revenue increased 300% in that single year. 

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Listen Now:


History Today’s “The Original Influencer

Feminism 3.0 “Torches of Freedom

Oxford Present’s “Edward Bernays’ ‘Torches of Freedom’

Wikipedia “Torches of Freedom

The Father of Spin: Edward L. Bernays and The Birth of Public Relations by Larry Tye “Torches of Freedom: How The World’s First PR Campaign Came To Be

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