“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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