Smokesperson


An ad from the 15 January 1898 issue of The Graphic temporarily confounds. An unknown woman does not inform us that she smokes Ogden’s Guinea-Gold cigarettes, but that her brother does. As women were known to smoke, we cannot imagine that such removal is designed to deflect us from thinking her a wanton trollop. There is likely to be an alternative explanation for the apparent coyness.

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Many adverts today employ some character of small celebrity, minor achievement, or otherwise insignificant contribution to the sum total of human happiness. The advertisers take for granted that the intended audience is familiar with the person dosing the product with their paltry imprimatur. The corporate stooge on screen never says who they are but addresses you as if you know them intimately – with an air of faux-cameraderie that would embarrass a stalker.

So maybe this late nineteenth century ad is one of those. Perhaps we’re just supposed to know who she is, and additionally know that she has a famous brother, and that it’s thus his authority which vouches for the superiority of the cigarette being pushed. So it’s quite a sophisticated early example of that kind of pseudo mates-with-the-cool ad we see today. It should work really well, if you can get yourself back to 1898.

But – and here’s the interesting bit – Ogden did cigarette cards. And they produced a series of cards with famous actresses of the day (more than once in their history). There’s a chap over here with a set from the period. And there’s another set over here from a later generation.

So if you can work out who she is you can infer her brother’s identity and find whose commendation is really being projected by this ad.

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About pussonalamp
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