Packaging for Life Cigarettes, designed by Frank Gianninoto (photo from: Graphis “Packaging 2”)
Another cigarette pack, designed by Frank Gianninoto, perhaps best known as the designer of the familiar Marlboro Cigarettes pack.
Brown and Williamson, whose Viceroy slumped 20 per cent in the first quarter of this year, will try to recapture some of their loss with Life, a non-mentholated product claiming “the world’s finest filter.” Its white and gold package, reminiscent of last year’s striking Old Gold Straight package, features a new Brown and Williamson trade mark of gold tobacco leaves with the motto: Magna Vita Est. In an off-center position on the face of the package is a casual looking custom stamp device describing the featured filter.
Industrial Design Magazine, 1959
As with the two tall “L”s in the Marlboro logo, the letters of the “Life” logo also serve as a subtle metaphor for cigarettes. The gold inline of the font suggesting a channel — as if one could draw smoke through every letter.
This metaphor was later made more explicit, when the “L” on the King Size pack was made a bit taller.
“Life” was a Brown & Williamson cigarette brand, first trademarked in 1952, but in use as early as 1924. The Latin motto, “Magna Vita Est” translates to “Life is Great,” cheerfully exploiting the potential double meanings of a product named “Life.” (Similar to the way Life Cereal and Life Beverages both used the catchphrase, “Enjoy Life!”)
Of course, the irony of a cigarette named “Life” is more evident today than when it was first introduced…
Whereas the push for reassuring brand names came about in the 1970s with the introduction of Merit, Vantage, and other brands in response to the 1964 Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health, the predecessor to all of these brands was Life, introduced by Brown & Williamson in 1948. With slogans like “You get more out of Life!” or “Enjoy a longer Life!” the intended message regarding health is blatantly obvious. Still, Brown & Williamson continued marketing Life cigarettes up until 1974, when they were finally discontinued.
Stanford Research into the Impact of Tobacco Advertising
Stanford School of Medicine
(After the fold: more Life Cigarettes history and the Federal Trade Commission…)
This article from a 1948 issue of U.S. Tobacco Journal describes the Ted Bates launch of Life Cigarettes. Features touted in the campaign included the size of the cigarettes, themselves (“known logically as LIFE size”) and a new “wetproof” paper.
The 1960 newspaper ad on the right offers “NEW LIFE” (CIGARETTES).
This is a Brown & Williamson trademark registration from 1954 showing the earlier version of the Life Cigarettes logo. (This document cites a 1924 “first use.”)
The letter above was Life Cigarettes’ response to charges in 1950 from the FTC about LIFE’s unsupported health claims. (Note the cc to Rosser Reeves at Ted Bates.)
Mainly, the FTC was annoyed by a TV commercial which claimed that Life’s filter ratings were “on file with the U.S. Government.” Indeed they were, but the implication that this constituted an official warranty was unwarranted; the FTC had simply requested the data after the claim was made that Life had been “proved to give you the least tar and nicotine of all cigarettes.”
In the course of justifying the Life campaign, Rosser Reeves, chairman of the board of the Ted Bates agency, enunciated a whole Madison Avenue morality: “The FTC may take exception to the phrasing and demonstration used in these advertisements,” he said. “A difference of opinion is an understandable thing. But utterly apart from the phrasing used or the demonstration, what are the most important aspects of the totality of this advertising? If any person is led by the Life advertising to switch to Life cigarettes in the belief that it is the lowest in tars and nicotine — in truth and in fact he will be getting the cigarette with the lowest tars and nicotine ever on sale.”
Ruth Brecher, 1963
The Consumers Union report on smoking and the public interest
I’d like to see one these Life Cigarettes commercials. I think Ted Bates produced a few of them. Has anyone seen any videos?
Ultimately the FTC appears to have prevailed as shown in the 1960 newspaper squib on the right.
Naturally, the indefatigable Rosser Reeves found a new way to spin these sanctions from the FTC, as shown in the 1963 newspaper ad below…
See also: The Marlboro Beer Memos
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