“You’ve come a long way, baby.”

A slogan—brief, yet memorable—was a pow­er­ful asset to the ongo­ing effec­tive­ness of adver­tis­ing cam­paigns for Vir­ginia Slims cigarettes

An adver­tis­ing cam­paign fea­tur­ing styl­ish­ly dressed women pro­mot­ed the mes­sage that inde­pen­dent, con­fi­dent and lib­er­at­ed women smoke Vir­ginia Slims cigarettes.

The sto­ry start­ed in the fall of 1967 when the Amer­i­can Tobac­co Com­pa­ny brought out a new cig­a­rette called Sil­va Thins. The Philip Mor­ris Com­pa­ny con­sid­ered respond­ing with a com­pet­i­tive prod­uct and asked their adver­tis­ing agency, the Leo Bur­nett Com­pa­ny, “What would you guys do with a thin cig­a­rette like Sil­va Thins if Philip Mor­ris were to make one?”

The agency start­ed on the assign­ment in late Decem­ber 1967. There was no name for the prod­uct; no slo­gan; no design. With­in four weeks the cam­paign was cre­at­ed and was received with enthu­si­asm by the client. By the end of July Vir­ginia Slims was in test-mar­ket in San Fran­cis­co and sev­en weeks after intro­duc­tion the brand was rolling out nationally.

We know all of this from a pre­sen­ta­tion by Hal Wein­stein, Vice Pres­i­dent and Cre­ative Direc­tor of Leo Bur­nett, to the 1969 region­al con­ven­tions of the Amer­i­can Asso­ci­a­tion of Adver­tis­ing Agen­cies (A.A.A.A.).  The Amer­i­can Asso­ci­a­tion of Adver­tis­ing Agen­cies is a U.S. trade asso­ci­a­tion for adver­tis­ing agen­cies. Found­ed in 1917 it serves over 600+ mem­ber agen­cies across 1,200 offices, which con­trol more than 85% of total U.S. adver­tis­ing spend.

Leo Burnett’s cre­ative chal­lenge, Wein­stein told his audi­ence, “was to estab­lish and main­tain a new attrac­tive brand per­son­al­i­ty. A cig­a­rette for women only was an instant suc­cess and brand iden­ti­ty was firm­ly established.”

Weinstein’s pre­sen­ta­tion is a rarely told account of the devel­op­ment of an adver­tis­ing cam­paign, the devel­op­ment of a cre­ative idea.

The pre­sen­ta­tion is illus­trat­ed with reprints of the evo­lu­tion of that cre­ative idea.

The ini­tial ads fea­tured an old-fash­ioned pho­to­graph of repressed women smok­ers behind a col­or­ful, vibrant “New Woman” free of oppres­sion, smok­ing proud­ly.  Smok­ing Vir­ginia Slims was free­dom, it was liberation!

Adver­tis­ing copy in the 1968 cam­paign used the words “You’ve come a long way.” In 1969 the words became the slo­gan and the tag “baby” was added.

The slo­gan instant­ly caught on, and the “Women’s Lib” theme per­fect­ly tapped into the female consumer’s  mind­set. Vir­ginia Slims would become the lead­ing tobac­co prod­uct for women by a wide margin.

printers devil

The web­site FLASHBAK—a dig­i­tal col­lec­tion of thou­sands of won­der­ful pic­tures, sto­ries, let­ters, sounds and movies from across the past—offers a review of Vir­ginia Slims print adver­tis­ing year by year. FLASHBAK notes “there is per­haps no bet­ter way to wit­ness the chang­ing fash­ions and zeit­geist of the Amer­i­can woman, through­out the 1970s and 1980s than to walk through Vir­ginia Slims adver­tis­ing.  So, let’s take it year by year – and watch the evolution.”

Vir­ginia Slims cig­a­rettes were also adver­tised on tele­vi­sion and the slo­gan on the right was incor­po­rat­ed into the tele­vi­sion jungle:

You’ve come a long way, baby
To get where you’ve got to today
You’ve got your own cig­a­rette now, baby
You’ve come a long, long way

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Every Virginia Slims advertisement featured
a stylishly-dressed woman:  Philip Morris expanded sales by marketing many of the actual garments

In 1977 Vir­ginia Slims adver­tise­ments offered con­sumers— for rea­son­able dol­lars and bot­toms cut from Vir­ginia Slims packs of cig­a­rettes— a Jump Jack­et and Sports shorts for $22.00 and two pack bottoms. 

Below is a very costly 1994 Double Gatefold advertisement in People Weekly magazine promoting the Virginia Slims styles. (The slogan “You’ve come a long way, baby.” is missing.) There are six full pages in this advertisement.  The first image below are the side panels. the second image shows the four pages within the gatefold. The six pages are then presented individually.
The Fashion Collection was FREE with proof of purchase of packs of cigarettes.

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