Indian Cigarette Ads from 1800s to 2000s

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The song that is on the tip of the tongue of every Hindi-film-loving Indian smoker is getting a paint job. Dev Anand starrer Hum Dono (1961) will be soon released in colour (a la Mughal-e-Azam and Naya Daur). Mohammad Rafi’s colourful rendition of the song penned by Sahir Ludhianvi and composed by Jaidev will have Dev Anand puffing Hindi cinema’s most famous cigarette in a watercolour-like enviromnent.

[00:01:20]
Download a midi version of the song [zip | mid 00:01:52 3 KB]

Though not with an intention to celebrate the much admonished hard-to-break habit of smoking, I’ve put together collection of cigarette advertisements in India right from the late 18th century to the early 21st century just before advertising for tobacco products was prohibited by the promulgation of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003. [pdf]

Lest I am accused of violating the spirit of the act, here are a few anti-smoking messages (they usually quite creative) as a deterring-prelude.

[Click on the images for a larger view]


Smoking kills (Cancer Patients Aid Association)


The smoke grave (Cancer Patients Aid Association)


Believe it or not, he actually smokes 20 different brands. Passive smoking, deadlier than you think (WHO and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare)


Between the two of them, they smoke fifteen cigarettes a day. Passive smoking, deadlier than you think (WHO and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare)


The irony is she doesn’t know she smokes. Passive smoking, deadlier than you think (WHO and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare)

One puff and a slap of fine of Rs 200
Under Sec. 4 of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003 smoking in railway premises including trains, stations, waiting halls and offices is prohibited.
South Eastern Railway
Striving for a tobacco free environment


Smokers are cockroaches and cigarettes roach exterminator (Cancer Patients Aid Association)


Smoking reduces weight. One lung at a time (Cancer Patients Aid Association)


O&M’s brilliant take on one of the world’s most popular campaigns, that of the Marlboro Man and his horse. The ‘Second hand smoke kills’ campaign went on to win numerous awards (Cancer Patients Aid Association)


Another gem from the O&M stable. Succinct and sure. This won the Gold Lion in the ‘Outdoor Public Health and Safety’ category at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival 2003 (Cancer Patients Aid Association)

Cigarette advertising in India from the late 1800s to the early 2000s

(This collection does not necessarily reflect the best in India’s tobacco advertising. It is an exercise of convenience rather than comprehensiveness)


An early Indian tobacco advertisement, probably dating back to the late 18th century. The copy makes an interesting read (Anbumani Ramadoss would strongly disagree):

Support the Indian industry by smoking guaranteed Indian made Nizam, Vazeer & Gold Tipped Nizam.
Packed in packets of 10 each.
Made in India! By Indians! For Indians!
Registered
Ask your tobacconist for
Nizam, Vazeer & G.T. Nizam cigarettes
Manufactured in Bombay by John Petrino & Co.


An ad for cigarettes for women from the 1920s. The copy reads:
On every lip “Maspero” Specials & Felucca. The same high quality at Rs 3/12 per tin of 50. Sold by all tobacconists. A Maspero tip.


An ad from the 1930s. The text says:

Pradhan Specials Cigarettes
Made from Virginia Tobacco Planted in India
Indian Capital Management
Better than any Imported Cigarette for its price
Sole Agents – Chopra & Co., Chandni Chowk, Delhi
Local stockists: Shahabuddin Md. Ibrahim, Fatepuri
Local stockists: Maharaja Hotel, Delhi


One of the most popular cigarette brands in India – Wills Navy Cut’s advertising campaigns has the highest recall value. Their ‘Made for each other’ campaign spanned generations of cigarette smokers. Here’s an early Wills ad, when it was called ‘Wills Filter’ and old timers still do, some
say ‘Filter Wills.’ From the mid or late 1960s.

The copy reads:
Made for each other
Like Wills Filter
Filter and tobacco perfectly matched. Taste that truly satisfies – time after time. Millions of smokers wouldn’t have it any other way.
Wills Filter. Once you’ve tried it – you stay with it.
India’s largest selling filter cigarette
Wills Filter
Filter and tobacco perfectly matched

In 1969 ITC, the manufacturers of Wills, introduced the Wills Made for Each Other contest to select the perfectly matched couple. Which half forms the paper rolled tobacco and who’s the filter is a topic of an unending debate.


A few tobacco crops later, the branding changed to Wills Navy Cut – Filter Tipped. And the ad text evolved to:
Made for each other filter and tobacco perfectly matched
What tobacco men call marriage – the marriage of the right tobacco with the right filter – is what makes Wills Filter Tipped extra special. A filter cigarette as good as Wills is not just a good cigarette with a filter at one end – it is a good filter cigarette. The fine tobacco in Wills are specially blended to match the filter, enhance the taste. That is why you will find Wills Filter Tipped so satisfying. So many discriminating smokers already have.
they’re great… they’re Wills
Rs 1.20 for 20; 60 paise for 10

The ad was published in 1971 and 36 years later a pack of 10s costs Rs 34. An inflation of 5566.67 per cent! An annual rate would be around 154.63 per cent.


Made for each other in 1994. The models had changed but not much difference in the theme and also the copy.


Wills Navy Cut in a more modern avatar, not the ad, the packaging (2001)


Celebrating the arrival of 2003


A Wills ad from April 2004. Would be among the last ones to appear in mainstream print.

Other brands:


Charminar GOLD. I don’t see this brand anywhere nowadays.

The copy reads:
Smoothness has never been so satisfying
Charminar GOLD Filter
Rs 1/95 for 20
Local taxes extra
Such a rare combination: smoothness, but with all the taste, all the satisfaction.
Just what you always wanted: Charminar GOLD


Wills Insignia. Where quality touches infinity.
(2004)


Gold Flake is by far the most popular cigarette brand in India (when I last saw the stats).


Gold Flake. It’s Honeydew Smooth (2003)


Gold Flake. It’s Honeydew Smooth (2003)


Gold Flake Lights. It’s Honeydew Smooth


Gold Flake Ultima (2004)


Wills Classic Ultra Milds. Discover a passion (2002)


Wills Classic. Discover a passion. For those who value taste (2003)


India Kings. One of the premium cigarette brands in India. (2004)


Godfrey Phillips. There can be no fire without passion.


Godfrey Phillips Jaiselmer


Godfrey Phillips Originals


Four Square. The Man with the Smooth Edge (2004)


Four Square. The Man with the Smooth Edge (2003)


Four Square. The Man with the Smooth Edge.

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Four Square. The Man with the Smooth Edge (2001)


Spicy fresh offer
Camera mobile phone
Movie tickets couple
Music CDs
Win instant prizes with Cluv Spice 10s pack!


Stellar Slims
Introducing India’s first slim cigarette

Here are some that I borrowed from Vinayak’s post at At the Edge. Vinakak Vinayak has a growing collection of vintage Indian print ads.


Give me a bike.
Give me a highway.
Give me my girl.
And give me the taste of toasted tobacco.
Toasted taste made milder.
That’s the way I like it.
Discover the taste of toasted tobacco enjoyed by millions the world over. Now made milder and captured for your smoking pleasure in Charminar Filter.
Charminar Filter
Main dealer: Vazir Sultan & Sons, Hyderabad


Live life Kingssize
Four Suqare Kings
All the taste, all the way
(Input from Vinayak: Four Square Cigarette ad featuring Suresh Oberoi from 1970s. I think the woman in the background is Supriya Pathak.)


An exclusive affair
Regent Cigarettes


Bookshops are for browsing
And it was Sunday morning…
At last I found what I wanted
So had she.
This called for a quick plotting or I’d get shelved.
Visa Filter Kings Cigarettes

The ads have been scanned from old copies of Outlook, India Today, Parade, Man’s World, The Times of India, The Statesman, The Week, Frontline; sourced from Indian Advertising 1780-1950; and downloaded from the internet. Dates for the early advertisements are assumed and may not be precise.

Don’t have a Dropbox account? Get yours for free here.


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  • Nasal Crooner

    boy.. that some exhaustive list!!a smoker’s delight for sure :)

  • Kiran Adimatyam

    Soumyadip, I stumbled on your blog looking for Bharat Ek Khoj’s music. Looking at the ads and other posts that you have put there made me nostalgic. It’s been almost more than 2 years since I visited India. Now, I feel like I need to go RIGHT NOW. Keep up the good work. I will try to visit your blog often.Good luck and Best Regards,SeshaKiran

  • mahendra palsule

    Wow! You’ve obviously taken great pains to create this post, but let me say it is well worth it. This is truly a “Collector’s Edition” for anyone into advertising. Brought back lots of nostalgia as well.

  • Nitin Sinha

    Delightful post.

  • mechanix

    outstanding..one of d best single posts I’ve seen..kudos to ya..

  • Soumyadip

    I appreciate the encouragement.

  • Anonymous

    amazing stuff….fabulous collection….do u have the four square print / video ads (which shows the man shooting in ice covered alps with red bikini clad models)

  • Soumyadip

    <>Anonymous<>: I don’t have that with me, but will surely post it here if I find that.

  • gaizabonts

    TeaMaker: While searching for an ad in Google guess where I was directed!Wills had another version of ‘made for each other’. A couple reading the ‘unofficial polish jokebook’can you get your hands on that?

  • Soumyadip

    <>Gaizabonts<>: I vaguely recollect that ad. Will surely look for it .

  • Sandy

    Great work…absolutely fantastic !! can u run a part on surrogate Cigarette advertising. What I am looking for is the Four Square Cricket Gear ad with Nayan Mongia, Venkatesh Prasad etc in a boat race. I think this came in 1998.This was done by O&M for GPI. I have not been able to locate it on youtube or other sites.

  • Vinayak Razdan

    Thanks Soumyadip!Will try to add some more to the collection.

  • Anonymous

    Soumyadip! Its a superb collection. As far I remember a bengal guy who looks very similar to Amitabh Bachan (a look alike) did some similar advertisements – do you remember anything ?

  • Vinayak Razdan

    hey… the link to my post is pointing to a <>.htm<> page instead of ending in <>.html<>. Hope you fix it.Also you spelled my name wrong :)

  • Soumyadip

    <>@Vinayak<> Oops! Rectified.

  • Vinayak Razdan

    Thanks! I will be posting some more soon.

  • रोमेंद्र सागर

    good post BUT the guy in the Four Sqaure : live life , king size is positively NOT suresh oberoi and neither the girl-supriya ! I am afraid but I am not aware of his name BUT his pet name was “TULLU” …a famous print/film ad model. Please do some research…i am also doing ! ;)

    The post is great otherwisw : congratulations !!

  • Soumyadip

    @विक्षुब्ध: You may be right. I’ll try to trace the (actual) models.

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