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George Washington Hill and the “Reach for a Lucky … ” campaign

Fred Beard (Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma, USA)
Anna Klyueva (Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma, USA)

Journal of Historical Research in Marketing

ISSN: 1755-750X

Article publication date: 13 April 2010




The purpose of this historical paper is to examine arguably the most controversial advertising campaign of all time. Critics have condemned tobacco marketer George Washington Hill's “Reach for a Lucky Instead of a Sweet” campaign in the late 1920s and early 1930s for its explicit attempt to encourage smoking among women by linking cigarettes with themes of slenderness and youth.


The paper relies on primary sources obtained chiefly from the important advertising trade journals Printers' Ink and Advertising and Selling. Many sources, in turn, pointed to historically significant advertisements from the “Reach for a Lucky […]” campaign, some of which are included among the findings. Tentative themes of analysis were: the strategic motives behind the “Reach for a Lucky […]” campaign and the campaign's outcomes and consequences, both positive and negative.


Hill aggressively pursued the female smoker of the 1920s, as did other cigarette marketers of the period. However, the paper's findings support a conclusion that Hill had additional motives for attacking “sweets,” other than merely encouraging women to smoke with a slenderness appeal. Hill's primary strategic concern must have been how to address the extraordinarily competitive situation he faced with the other “big four” cigarette brands.


Focusing on the strategic intent of the campaign and its outcomes and consequences, findings strongly suggest that prior perspectives and conclusions found in advertising history texts regarding this infamous campaign often fail to reveal its significance as an historical event.



Beard, F. and Klyueva, A. (2010), "George Washington Hill and the “Reach for a Lucky … ” campaign", Journal of Historical Research in Marketing, Vol. 2 No. 2, pp. 148-165.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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