Move over Marlboro man, a new branding icon has come to town – “Jeff, the Diseased Lung in a Cowboy Hat.”
Jeff (the new Marlboro man perhaps?) is the brainchild of “Last Week Tonight” host John Oliver, who featured an 18-minute expose on Phillip Morris International and its alleged efforts to keep people in developing nations puffing on cigarettes.
He also pointed out that four actors who played the Marlboro Man in commercials have died of lung cancer, as the Inquisitr has also reported.
Oliver’s expose came down to this: rates of smoking in the U.S. have nosedived thanks to industry regulations and marketing restrictions, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. So, tobacco companies are turning their attention to countries with less restrictive regulations to cultivate new customers.
Some of these nations — Oliver profiled Togo, Uruguay and Australia specifically — have passed laws to keep the traditional Marlboro man off cigarette boxes and advertising, and replace him with disturbing images of diseased lungs and rotten teeth, according to the Los Angeles Times.
According to Oliver, Phillip Morris has threatened lawsuits against the Australian government; the company claims these restrictive laws against its brand logos “reduce the value of the brand’s trademark and intellectual property,” added the Times.
As compromise, Oliver offered Jeff — with no strings attached — to tobacco companies to use in advertising. He also shipped boxes of t-shirts featuring Jeff to Togo (and showed footage of Togolese dancing happily while wearing them) and papered Uruguayan capital Montevideo with Jeff posters.
And Oliver’s troop-rallying hashtag, #JeffWeCan, is still a trending topic on Twitter.
Naturally, Phillip Morris isn’t happy, and are unlikely to replace the Marlboro Man with Jeff. The Times printed this statement from the company.
“‘Last Week Tonight with John Oliver’ is a parody show, known for getting a laugh through exaggeration and presenting partial views in the name of humor. The segment includes many mischaracterizations of our company, including our approach to marketing and regulation, which have been embellished in the spirit of comedic license.
We support and comply with thousands of regulations worldwide — including advertising restrictions, penalties for selling tobacco products to minors, and substantial health warnings on packaging. We’re investing billions into developing and scientifically assessing a portfolio of products that have the potential to be less harmful and that are satisfying so smokers will switch to them … we ask only that laws protecting investments, including trademarks, be equally applied to us.”
[Image via Last Week Tonight YouTube screengrab]