“Sophisticated Pleasure”: The Stratford-Tobacco Connection
A Case Study: Shakespeare’s Cigar
In 2002 the father-son team of Robert and Scott Shakespeare founded Shakespeare's Cigar Corporation with the creation of their first product, The Shakespeare Signature. Although the corporation’s name is most obviously derived from the surname of its founders, they have used the name to its utmost advantage by employing William Shakespeare in their advertising campaign. Shakespeare’s portrait and words are present in the logo, slogan, and print advertisements, thus suggesting an intrinsic and permanent relationship between the famous playwright and the cigars.
Although a rather odd duo, the print advertisements for Shakespeare’s Cigar attempt to blend these unrelated concepts into a tight, coordinated package, so that it seems only natural that Shakespeare and cigars belong together. Robert and Scott Shakespeare fade into the background while William Shakespeare is literally placed centre stage. In the print ad feature below the cigars are used to create a theatrical space. A portrait of Shakespeare is framed by two cigars, which seem to mark the perimeter of a stage, while the remaining cigars make-up the audience members. The rich colours of brown, red, blue and gold are also suggestive of a theatrical setting, particularly the Globe Theatre.
The connection between Shakespeare and tobacco seems odd, especially considering that tobacco is generally not permitted in the theatre. Why then does a cigar company like Shakespeare’s Cigar use William Shakespeare to promote its products?
|Shakespeare's Cigar Ad|
Pleasure and Sophistication: Shakespeare and Tobacco
In a 2000 investigation by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporations’s National Magazine entitled “War Against Tobacco,” Brian Stuart suggests that it is common for tobacco companies to advertise their products as “sophisticated pleasure.” This statement may help to answer why tobacco companies like Shakespeare’s Cigar use the Bard in their advertising campaigns. Traditionally seen as “the epicenter of the English literary tradition and viewed as an ‘original genius’” (Fischlin and Fortier 9), Shakespeare has become a marker of cultural sophistication. Thus, simply by suggesting a link between their products and the famous playwright, tobacco companies are able to market their cigars and cigarettes as representative of high culture.
Shakespeare’s Cigar Corporation is not alone in using William Shakespeare to market tobacco products. Through the naming of their companies, Macbeth Cigars and Hamlet Cigars directly associate their products with the work of William Shakespeare. Similarly, the American company Thompson Cigar has a line of “Romeo y Julieta” products, which it markets by playing off the romance and passion of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The cigars are packaged in a wooden box featuring a painting of the balcony scene.Although their names are not associated with Shakespeare, Marlboro and Lucky Strike have also attempted to establish a link between their cigarettes and the Bard. In a 1937 advertisement, Lucky Strike uses actor Leslie Howard, who is fresh off a tour of Hamlet, to market their products as the “ ‘top’ cigarette for an actor’s throat.” The ad suggests that this brand is specifically designed for performing artists: “[s]ee how many leading artists of radio, stage, screen and opera, prefer them. Naturally the voices of these artists are all-important to them. That's why they want a light smoke.” Marlboro goes even more directly to the source in a 1928 Advertisement, which features Shakespeare telling potential buyers, “[w]e in the theatrical profession prefer… MARLBOROS.”
|R. J. Reynolds's Lucky Strike Ad, 1937|
This essay explores the connection between Shakespeare and tobacco advertising, particularly in terms of tobacco sponsorship of the Stratford Festival in Canada through donations and paid advertisements. While tobacco companies attempt to use Shakespeare to endorse and legitimize their products, the Stratford Festival relied on the tobacco industry for financial sponsorship. Thus, these two seemingly unrelated entities actually seem to share a symbiotic relationship—they each depended on the other for success and survival.
|Philip Morris' Marlboro Ad, 1928|
The Early Years of Tobacco in England
Although it is unknown whether or not Shakespeare used tobacco, the introduction of the product into England temporally coincides with the years in which Shakespeare (b. 1564-1616) was writing. Sir John Hawkins first brought tobacco to England in 1564 or 1565, but it was primarily used only by sailors until 1586 when it was officially introduced into English Society by colonists from Virginia (Borio).
The early seventeenth century saw a heated debate over the potential merits and disadvantages of tobacco use in England. The debate was highlighted by A Counterblast to Tobacco, written by King James I in 1604, in which he associates tobacco with the “wilde, godlesse, and slavish Indians” (3), suggesting that the use of the “herbe” is uncivilized, unchristian and a “vile barbarous custome” (4). In an attempt to discourage the use of tobacco, King James suggests a fundamental difference between the English and citizens of less civilized nations. He asks his countrymen, “shall we, I say, without blushing, abase our selves to farre, as to imitate these beastly Indians, slaves to the Spaniards, refuse to the world, and as yet aliens to the holy Covenant of God?” (3).
According to King James, tobacco could jeopardize the British nation and lead to the downfall of the Empire (10). Of particular concern was the lethargy caused by tobacco use (10), its addictive properties (10), potential health problems (11), and the British currency being wasted on the drug: “[n]ow how you are by this custome disabled in you goods, let the Gentry of this land beare witnesse, some of them bestowing three, some foure hundred pounds a yeere upon this precious stinke, which I am sure might be bestowed upon many farre uses” (10).
King James’s presentation of tobacco as unhealthy for both the nation and her citizens contrasts with the message presented in contemporary tobacco advertising campaigns. According to Michael Dobson, from the eighteenth century onward Shakespeare held a pre-eminent position in British culture (3). He writes, “Shakespeare has been as normatively constitutive of British national identity as the drinking of afternoon tea” (7). If Shakespeare is understood as a symbol of the British nation, it seems problematic that he is represented as endorsing tobacco, which was initially seen by England’s monarch during Shakespeare’s time as destructive of the nation.
A 1615 article entitled, “An Advice How to Plant Tobacco in England,” suggests an antidote to the negative impact of tobacco on the English. The author writes that the greatest concern surrounding tobacco is the money leaving England for its purchase (2). To remedy this situation, the author’s wish is “to instruct those of our Nation how to sow, plant and perfect this drugge” (2). Not only will England’s growing of tobacco help to keep British money within the nation, but British efforts will also create a product more wholesome by eliminating additives and allowing the tobacco to ripen naturally (6).
After the English Restoration, King Charles II had a more favourable opinion of the product than King James. Although Charles outlawed the growing of tobacco in England, he encouraged the growth in the colony of Virginia in order that Britain would financially benefit from the import taxes set on tobacco (Borio). Thus, from the seventeenth century, there has been a direct connection between government support of the growth and production of tobacco and possible financial gains made from these endeavours. The emergence and acceptability of tobacco coincided with the golden age of English theatre. Such a relationship between tobacco and theatre would show up again in the mid-20th Century in Canada at the Stratford Festival.
Tobacco in Canada
Canadian tobacco was first grown in Québec by early French settlers who learned the method from local First Nations. It was later harvested for export back to Europe beginning in 1739 (Cunningham 289). Ontario’s tobacco industry developed in the late 19th Century, but it has sustained the test of time compared to Québec’s tobacco industry, which has recently ceased production, similar to Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick (“Tobacco”).
Southwestern Ontario has emerged as the leader in tobacco growing and manufacturing in Canada, developing with it a regional dependence on the drug for economic stability. Tobacco in Ontario was first grown in Kent and Essex country by United Empire Loyalists from the United States, who brought tobacco seeds with them when they left during the American Revolution. In 1925 the first successful crop of Virginia tobacco was grown, and as Imperial Tobacco proudly states, “with it began a new era in the history of Canadian Tobacco.” The retail value of Canadian tobacco sales was $9.8 billion in 1992 (Cunningham 18). There is no underestimating the effects the three major Canadian tobacco companies have had on the shape of Southwestern Ontario. These companies include Imperial; Rothmans, Benson & Hedges Incorporated; and JTI –Macdonald (previously, RJR-Macdonald).
Imperial Tobacco is Canada’s biggest tobacco company, and their parent-company is British American Tobacco (BAT). Its head office is in Montreal with manufacturing plants in Guelph and Aylmer, Ontario (“Our Company”). Despite the direct link between smoking tobacco and lung cancer, Imperial Tobacco continues to be a lucrative business, reporting profits every year since 1928, even reporting profits during the Great Depression (Cunningham 18). Almost all levels of government in Ontario have become hooked on the drug, as it provides numerous jobs in all levels of production, large tax revenues, and is important to municipal, provincial, and even federal economies. Tobacco companies hold important political ties: Canada’s former Prime Minister Paul Martin was on the Board of Directors at Imasco, the past parent-company of Imperial Tobacco. The small town of Stratford, Ontario is located within one hour drive of the tobacco manufacturing plants in Guelph and Aylmer, the heartland of tobacco-growing country. Because of the tobacco industry’s importance to Southwestern Ontario, it is not surprising that Imperial tobacco, along with Rothmans and Macdonald were main sponsors of the Stratford Festival for approximately fifty years. Until the mid-1980s, Canada’s three largest tobacco companies advertised prominently in both the house programs and the souvenir programs of the Stratford Festival.
The Stratford-Tobacco Connection
Almost right from the beginning (1953), Canada’s three major tobacco companies—Imperial Tobacco, W.C. Macdonald, and Rothmans—have consistently supported the Stratford Festival through corporate sponsorship and advertising. In exchange, these tobacco companies received printed credit for their donations, advertising space, and direct attention from theatre-goers. Perhaps most importantly, their tobacco products gained social acceptability through association with high-culture activities. In 1954, the second year of the Stratford Festival, W.C. Macdonald (a family-owned tobacco company) was listed under donors as a “Founder Member”, which is the highest level of donation (it does not state the level of funding). In 1956 the Imperial Tobacco Co. first appeared in the list of donors under “Founder Members.” These two tobacco companies consistently donated money at the highest level until 2004. 1971 marked the year where all three major companies appeared on the donation list under “Permanent Members,” a category which is defined as giving a cumulative total exceeding $10,000. Prior to this time, from 1970 to 1976, Rothmans of Pall Mall contributed to the festival through designing and printing the souvenir programme, and donating all proceeds from its sale to the Festival. By designing and printing the entire program, Rothmans ensured that they were the only company to advertise in the program.
|Rothman's crest displaed on the inside front cover from 1970-1976. It states: "This Souvenir Programme was Designed, Printed and Donated by Rothmans of Pall Mall Canada Limited. All proceeds from its sale go to the Stratford Shakespearean Festival of Canada."|
Advertising at Stratford: the Early Years
The first tobacco advertisement at the Stratford Festival appeared in the 1957 souvenir program and was a general advertisement for Imperial Tobacco Canada Limited. It was also the same year that the Stratford Festival received a Canada Council grant for $50,000, which was the first grant distributed through the new arts granting agency (Canada Council). It featured a Shakespeare-like character smoking a tobacco pipe. Other than this, no tobacco products are shown, only the name of the Imperial Tobacco Company of Canada appears at the bottom. A quote from Raphael Holinshed’s Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland (1577) appears below the smoking Shakespeare: “In these daies the taking in of the smoke of the herb called tobacco by an instrument formed by a little ladell… is gretlie taken up and used in England…”. The advertisement attempts to forge a direct relationship between Shakespeare and tobacco, using both the image and the text. Holinshed’s Chronicles were one of Shakespeare’s important sources, and were used for several of his plays, including Macbeth, King Lear, and Cymbeline. Even the design of the ad looks historical, yet, it was created by a Canadian artist specifically for the souvenir program and for the Imperial Tobacco Company of Canada, Limited. Other companies, such as Imperial Oil, also placed advertisements in the souvenir program, featuring a similar specially designed picture, and also using a quote from Holinshed that linked their industry to Shakespeare, as if legitimizing why they would advertise in a theatrical program. Rather than appearing as advertisements, they were designed and placed as artistic additions to the souvenir program. In order to receive financial support from sponsors, Stratford had to establish a connection between their sponsor’s product and the Festival itself. The founder of the Festival, Tom Patterson, had to create these connections between Shakespeare and a sponsor when he went looking for funding. In early 1953, just months before opening night, Tom Patterson attempted to secure funding for the Festival after hearing they were not granted the $50, 000 from the Atkinson Foundation. Patterson remembers that:
Our first move was to phone every wealthy man and woman we knew in Canada and some we did not know. We did not know Sam Bronfman, but we called the owner of Seagram’s that same Sunday afternoon, and stated,
“We need twenty-five thousand by tomorrow morning!”
“What are you calling me for??” the multi-millionaire asked.
“Well,” I stammered, “you’ve got this distillery in Kitchener, and that’s pretty near here…”“But whisky has nothing to do with Shakespeare!” he boomed. (131-132) [The quote should be single-spaced, but I can’t seem to make it that way]
|Imperial Tobacco Ad, 1957||Imperial Tobacco Ad, 1958|
This linking of Shakespeare to contributing industries appears to have been crucial to both the Festival and to the sponsoring companies, at least in the first few years, and it is evident in the souvenir program advertisements from 1957 and 1958. By 1959, however, such modesty in advertising had vanished, and the first image of cigarettes appeared in the house program, in an ad for Imperial Tobacco’s Matinée cigarettes.
Continued Tobacco Sponsorship of The Stratford Festival
Tobacco advertisement was also a prominent feature of the Stratford house programs, appearing consistently from 1959 until 1984. In general these print ads were strategically placed so that audience members would them see continually as they flipped through the program, usually on the back, the front or back inside cover, or in the middle. These ads were usually larger, more colourful, and more detailed than the small advertisements from local businesses, book stores, hotels, and restaurants.
The first tobacco advertisement to appear in the house programs was for Imperial’s Matinée cigarettes in 1959. This ad appeared in all programs from June 29 – September 19 and would have been viewed by thousands of theatre patrons. Although the exact number in attendance in 1959 is not known, over 68,000 people attended the festival in 1953 (Cushman), and Stratford currently estimates its annual attendance at 600,000 (Stratford website). The ad is designed specifically for the Festival as it depicts two people conversing with a Shakespearean actor outside a theatre, all of them smoking. Matinée suggests a relationship between watching a Shakespearean drama at Stratford and smoking one of their cigarettes. The ad states, “Matinée sets a new high standard in smoking satisfaction”. The ad seems to be playing on the position Stratford has in Canadian theatre, as both cigarette and theatre attempt to set a “new high standard”. Stratford’s opening season seat prices were based on the most expensive theatre ticket prices in New York: $6.00, $5.00, $4.00, $3.00, $1.80, and $1.00 (Patterson 137).
|Matinée cigarettes, 1959|
The connection between high art and smoking is made explicit in other ads by Imperial, including Player’s: Shakespeare’s cultural capital is being lent to support the cigarette’s status. From June to September 1962, this Player’s advertisement was presented on the back cover of the Stratford house program. Specifically designed for the Stratford Festival, it features a couple sitting outside the newly built Festival Theatre. Player’s seems to be using the same marketing strategy as Matinée in 1959, playing on the idea that both smoking and Shakespearean theatre are pleasurable and sophisticated. The featured slogan, “…and the taste comes through” suggests more than just the literal “taste” of the cigarettes coming through the new filters. It also plays on the idea that the couple has good taste in both their choice of cigarette brand and their choice of entertainment. Although they are outside the space of the theatre, the prominence of the Festival Theatre in the background as well as the couple’s clothing suggest that they have just come from the theatre. Visually, the couple is sandwiched between a box of Player’s cigarettes and the Festival Theatre; thus, they function as a link between tobacco and Shakespeare. The emphasis on “taste” continues into Imperial Tobacco’s du Maurier advertisements.
|Player's Cigarettes, 1962|
This 1975 advertisement for du Maurier cigarettes was featured on the inside front cover of the Stratford house programs. A box of du Maurier cigarettes is placed against the backdrop of a Hamlet script and a nineteenth-century advertisement for the play featuring Sarah Bernhardt. Unlike previous ads, this one does not feature anyone smoking. Instead, duMaurier implies a link between Hamlet and their cigarettes, which is based exclusively on the superior quality of both. This is suggested most overtly in their slogan, “[f]or people with a taste for something better.” Both du Maurier cigarettes and Shakespeare’s play represent this “something better.” Du Maurier ads continued to play on this notion of high culture and tastes, especially into the 1990s when direct product advertisement was banned.
|du Maurier cigarette ad, 1975|
The End of Tobacco Advertising at Stratford
1984 was the last year tobacco ads appeared in the Festival’s programs, with two large ads from Rothmans, Benson and Hedges and one from Imperial Tobacco. This marked the end of the Festival’s 25-year relationship with the industry. Although it was not until 1988 that Parliament passed the Tobacco Products Control Act, which banned tobacco advertising, some organizations, including Stratford, the Toronto Transit Commission (1980), and the Globe and Mail (1986) chose to stop tobacco advertising before this date (Cunningham 68-9). Action from health groups in Canada and around the world was bringing the severe health-related costs of smoking to public attention. Thus, the Stratford Festival may have wanted to distance itself from the ongoing controversy of the tobacco industry.
The festival did, however, continue to receive financial support from the tobacco industry after 1988. In 1992 an ad for du Maurier Arts Ltd. appeared in house programs. Although the tobacco company paid for the advertisement, the ad itself has nothing to do with smoking. Instead, it highlights the importance of du Maurier to the arts in Canada. The ad features a collage of artists, musicians, dancers, and actors. One picture appears to be Juliet calling for Romeo outside her balcony. The ad states that “As part of the largest private sector supporters of the Arts in Canada, du Maurier Arts Ltd. is proud of the over two decades of encouraging Canadian creativity in the Fine and Performing Arts”. It also mentions the company has contributed 30 million dollars, which they stress should be viewed as their “tangible expression of our sincere commitment to the cultural heritage of our great country”. The company aligns itself with a Canadian national identity, as if the du Maurier Arts will step in when the federal government fails to contribute money to the arts. From 1992 – 1993, the budget for The Canada Council of the Arts was significantly reduced by $8.7 million (Canada Council). A fact du Maurier may have been addressing in the advertisement. Hidden in the ad is any trace to the Imperial tobacco company and the real and tangible health effects of tobacco smoking.
Despite the Tobacco Products Control Act (1988) most tobacco companies were able to set up what Rob Cunningham refers to as “shell” companies to promote tobacco-company sponsorship of sporting and cultural events. Imperial’s “shell” companies include: Player’s Ltd, du Maurier Ltd., and Matinee Ltd. By 1995 Imperial Tobacco was spending $35-40 million on sponsorship, shifting its advertising expenses to sponsorship promotions (Cunningham 97-8). These forms of sponsorship advertisements have now become a thing of the past—in October 2003 the federal government tightened the laws governing tobacco advertising to include sponsorship. In response, Imperial Tobacco created the Imperial Tobacco Canada Foundation in 2005, “for the purpose of investing in communities throughout the country, in three primary focus areas—arts and culture, human services, and post-secondary education.” Donations are made from two programs, the Imperial Tobacco Canada Arts Council and the Imperial Tobacco Canada Arts Fund, which make annual donations without sponsoring specific arts events. In 2006, the Foundation provided support for 255 art groups, representing $2.15 million in funding. Despite direct sponsorship bans, Imperial Tobacco continued its donations to the Stratford Festival until 2003, when it was still listed in the Festival’s programs as an “Honorary and Permanent Member.” Until 2004 Imperial was also listed as a “Main Stage” corporate member of the Festival, which designates an annual donation of between $1000-1999.
Youth, Tobacco, and Stratford: A Deadly Combination
One of our primary concerns in conducting this research study has been the focused attempts by both tobacco companies and the Stratford Festival to target and attract young people. In his 2000 study “Targeting youth and concerned smokers: evidence from Canadian tobacco industry documents" . Richard Pollay estimates that 90% of regular smokers begin before the age of 19. Pollay's study suggests that Canadian tobacco companies, including Imperial Tobacco Ltd. and RJR-Macdonald Inc. have focused many of their advertisements at young starters, a move that leads to long-term success: "[c]apturing a significant share of the starters market yields significant long run returns, either through brand loyalty or down switching to seemingly lighter or milder versions of the same brand.” Confidential documents discussing youth marketing tactics have recently been released, confirming Pollay’s suggestion. For example, R.J. Reynolds (the parent company of the Canadian W.C. Macdonald) describes young adults (a euphemism for teenagers) as “a key market,” that could contribute to more long term profits than any other age group.
As discussed above, both Imperial Tobacco Ltd. and RJR-Macdonald were long-time financial supporters of Canada's Stratford Festival-their ads appeared in Festival programs from 1959 until the advertising ban in 1988. Among other patrons, their advertisements have been viewed by countless high school aged students. High school students from Southwestern Ontario have frequented the Stratford Festival in class-groups for decades, as part of educational programs. While being exposed to the work of William Shakespeare, these students were simultaneously being exposed to tobacco advertisements. By placing these advertisements in the programs for Shakespearean plays, tobacco companies effectively use the cultural capital of Shakespeare to market their cigarettes to youth. The advertisements suggest a link between the sophisticated, cultural, and educational experience of a Shakespearean play and tobacco, thus masking the harmfulness of tobacco products by presenting these products alongside something that is meant to be beneficial to students.
We encourage readers to explore our teaching module, which asks students from grades 9-12 to examine a series of tobacco print advertisements to discover how tobacco companies utilize William Shakespeare and the theatrical arts to market their products.
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Fischlin, Daniel. Canadian Adaptations of Shakespeare Project. University of Guelph. 2004. <http://www.canadianshakespeares.ca>.