This ad made me start smoking

Non UK and Ireland peeps, let me explain. This was the 1980s.

This was a billboard campaign for a brand of cigarettes sold in the UK called SILK CUT. The packaging was purple and white. They were a lower tar cigarette. But still lethal obviously.

“But how could you tell it was an ad for Silk Cut?” You couldn’t. That was the whole point.

Government regulation of cigarette advertising had rightly limited them to saying nothing about the product. No claims, no product advertising. Nothing.

So legendary UK adman (silk cut fiend) and modern art collector Charles Saatchi took a more artful approach. Every poster featured purple silk being “cut”. geddit? Silk…Cut. This was the very first what must have been hundreds of executions in the campaign.

a blindingly simple idea that he and other executed masterfully. you followed along to see the clever way they’d figure out how to cut the purple silk next time. and the posters got better and better and better over the years. some were absurd. some broadly comedic. some topical. they were cool. so cool that teenage me started smoking silk cut too.

the power of advertising. thank you charlie!

7 responses to “This ad made me start smoking

  1. Still smoking them?

    Very ingenious campaign btw.

  2. I spent two years in the UK in the late 80s. Saw this campaign on bus shelters everywhere. Loved it. Ingenious way to create an exclusive group of consumers who are in on the pun. Would love to see more data on sales effectiveness, but as art, it was ingenious.

  3. happily no howie. quit in the late 90s. but wish i never had.

    rob, oh it worked like a motherfucker. all us teens smoked Silk cut based purely on this imagery. it was charles saatchi’s finest hour IMHO. pure brilliance. albeit evil.

  4. Brilliant campaign. Of course when cigarette advertising eventually got banned they needed a brilliant finish to a brilliant campaign.
    So they did this

    One of those ‘God, I wish I’d thought of that.’ Ideas.

  5. I spent 2 years finishing School in NC. I was the only one who didn’t smoke. Its a point of state patriotism to smoke..especially Camels. I got harassed a lot. I didn’t drink Bourbon either. Second strike LOL

  6. rant, that was brilliant. the posters towards the end were amazing. the “cheese grater” one. and the purple xmas dinner crepe paper hat. it earned to right to disappear up its own arse. we all got it! hard to find images of the ads on google search. was there a book of them?

  7. I’ve never seen a book, and couldn’t find reference for one via the magic of google or Amazon.
    This site is quite good if you’re looking for reference for classic ads
    You have to register, but it’s free.
    I love the ‘going for a slash one.’
    Imagine presenting that to a client, and having a client with the wit and balls to buy it.
    Halcyon days.

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