We’ve all seen the anti-smoking ads. We know what the consequences are of cigarettes. And it’s not pretty. So why is it that whenever we see the en vogue members of the silver screen lighting up, we want to do the same?
The thing is that each and every one of us is part of a malleable species that’s influenced by even the most blatant of messages. Celebrity endorsements are often ridiculed, but there’s a reason they’re consistently churned out despite the ‘laughing stock’ image: they work incredibly well.
Film and television has always been the perfect platform for product placement and subtle nudges towards buying certain products. Unfortunately, tobacco has often been used as both a marketing gimmick and a representation of trendiness that the producers are trying to get across. From the very start of the silent film era to the modern-day blockbusters, smoking has often taken center stage.
Mad Men is perhaps the best example of the glorification of smoking on television and film. Yes, it’s set in a time where the effects of smoking were still being debated, but it’s nevertheless been a blatant choice by producers to put smoking right at the forefront the show’s premise (tobacco ad execs doing their thing). Call it satire, call it social commentary, people are still seeing smoking as fashionable.
Don Draper: Definition of Cool
So what is it that makes Don Draper a character that many guys would love to be? It’s that inexplicable charisma, that undeniable charm, the fashionable 60s suits and classic good looks. But it’s not just that. Don Draper also ticks the ‘smoking box’, representing the ultimate visual of a man that approaches life with reckless abandon and confidence to spare.
Whenever Don does something that’s the benchmark of a gentleman, he’s always smoking. The consequences? Women, booze, and a party at every corner. Perhaps a more accurate timeline for Draper would be smoking > party > ends up in a hospital attached to a wide variety of machines keeping him going while his body is slowly killed by lung cancer.
While the actors on Mad Men didn’t actually smoke real cigarettes – they went for the ‘healthy’ herbal variety – they very much impact viewers to grab a pack (or two) of the full nicotine type. And no, that’s not a good thing.
Stating the Obvious: Advertising Works
The simple fact of the matter is that advertising works. We’re feeble creatures that fall victim to this type of influencing, even if it’s blatantly obvious that we’re being pitched to. Mad Men execs are probably not even doing it on purpose (conspiracy theories aside), yet they’re still very much actively promoting it.
Many studies have shown that smokers are particularly susceptible to these kinds of messages, perhaps even more so than your blatant tobacco ad. If you’re an ex-smoker and are battling addiction, we suggest watching Mad Men with some serious caution. It may sound a little silly, but addiction is easily fuelled by inspirations such as these.