The Earliest PR Campaign- Module 2

In the early 1920’s a man called Edward Bernays was approached by a cigarette company to increase their sales of their cigarette brand “Lucky Strike” amongst the female demographic. As cigarettes where already popular through the male demographic Bernays had to convince women through a campaign that smoking cigarettes would help fight their equality and it was acceptable for them to smoke, as back then it was really only acceptable for males to smoke (Chakraborty 2014).

In March 1929 through the Easter Parade Bernays staged a dramatic public display which was part of his PR campaign. Bernays public display was of a lady by the name of Bertha Hunt stepping into the busy parade creating the scandal of her lighting a Lucky Strike cigarette. Before this had happened he had told the press to expect that the women would light up “tourches of freedom” during the parade to show they were equal to men. This then caused a media outburst creating the story titled, “Group of Girls Puff at Cigarettes as a Gesture of ‘Freedom’”. By doing this it helped women all over the country express their new found symbol of their freedom through smoking cigarettes and hence creating the start of the first successful PR campaign (Chakraborty 2014).


Image 1: Bertha Hunt in Parade

Source: Christensen (2012)

This is a clear sign of a PR Campaign as according to Wilcox et al. (2013) PR relies on a number of communication tools such as brochures, special events, new releases and feature stories, all of which Bernays achieved in his campaign.

I believe that there isn’t anything I wouldn’t use in a campaign that Bernays used, he used simple but effective tactics that would be suitable in today’s public relations campaigns and I’m sure they are being used. Bernays tactics helped create a movement both to benefit the cigarette company and the freedom of women.


Image 2: Campaign Poster

Source: Chakraborty (2014)


Chakraborty, R 2014, Torches of Freedom: How the world’s first PR campaign came to be, viewed 28 April 2015,

Christensen, W 2012, Torches of Freedom: Women and Smoking Propaganda, viewed 28 April 2015,

Wilcox, DL, Cameron, GT, Reber, BH & Shin, JH 2013, Think: Public Relations, Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.


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