The man many of us grew up seeing on billboards with a cigarette dangling from his mouth has sadly passed on.
Bob Norris, the original “Marlboro Man,” died this week at his ranch in Colorado Springs, according to Fox News.
A Chance Discovery
The man who became an iconic figure in the history of advertising was first noticed by chance. After appearing in a local newspaper with Hollywood legend John Wayne, Norris was spotted by ad executives.
Norris’ ruggedly handsome look was exactly what advertisers wanted as a representation of the Marlboro brand. Not only that, but Norris was the real deal: an actual cowboy with his own ranch.
When ad executives approached Norris, he initially brushed them off, but he did offer to talk to them a week later if they were still interested.
They indeed returned, and he signed a contract to become the very first Marlboro Man, an image that would endure for decades.
Norris, unlike many of those who followed him in the Marlboro Man role, reportedly never smoked. What’s more, he was known to have strongly encouraged his children to avoid smoking.
His opposition to smoking is what caused him to quit representing Marlboro in its ad campaigns.
Acting as the spokesman for a tobacco product simply did not seem consistent with the advice he had repeatedly given his own kids, something they pointed out to him more than once.
Multiple men succeeded Norris in the role, but the campaign itself eventually came to an end.
Following the lung cancer deaths of others who portrayed the “Marlboro Man,” the company retired the concept for good.
Rest in peace, Mr. Norris.