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Marlboro marketers must not know what “>” means…

Be > Marlboro advertisment at Bahnhof Zoo in BerlinAs most of you know, I’m not a huge fan of smoking for a myriad of reasons, but I have to confess that the geniuses behind Marlboro cigarette advertising campaign have caught my attention.

In fact, by some measure, their campaign must be a success because I’ve had several conversations about it.

The first wave is what caught my attention: gigantic white signs with the word MAYBE written across them and the letters MAY crossed out with a gigantic X, leaving behind, “BE”.

The only clue as to the product being offered was the warning message that smoking is going to kill you and your children, as well as make you and your clothing smell bad.

It was at this point I stopped paying attention to the ads because (1) I don’t smoke, and (2) I don’t think cigarette companies should be allowed to advertise.

Be > Marlboro advertisment at Bahnhof Zoo in Berlin: Maybe Never Wins

But then the second wave of advertising started with strong messages like, “MAYBE NEVER WINS” and “DON’T BE A MAYBE” – with, at the bottom, the message “BE > MARLBORO”.

Be > Marlboro advertisment at Bahnhof Zoo in Berlin: Don't be a maybe.

It was this bottom tag line that caught my attention and made me wonder about the advertising geniuses. In my experience the > symbol indicates greater than, meaning that the tag line reads “be greater than Marlboro,” which is to say, don’t smoke – be better than cigarettes.

Maybe some advertising expert can explain to me what it is I am missing, because, in my book, I am greater than Marlboro, and that’s going somewhere.

Be > Marlboro advertisment at Bahnhof Zoo in Berlin: Maybe goes nowhere

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