Marlboro Washes Up in Jersey Shore: Best Anti-Smoking Ad Ever?


In the new trailer for the upcoming fourth season of Jersey Shore, a pack of Marlboros cozies up to The Situation. Yet when we contacted Philip Morris to ask about the product placement of the pack of Marlboros, particularly when the series has blurred other brands in the past, we were told by the cigarette maker, “It’s not our product.”[more]

The details are what makes it “not” Philip Morris USA’s product. As a Philip Morris spokesperson told us, the package is a product of Philip Morris International, with which Philip Morris USA has no relation. And you might call him the International Situation, because Jersey Shore has been shooting in Italy (hence the non-American Marlboro pack) this season.

The Philip Morris USA spokesman wanted to make sure we knew that, “We do not agree to or pay for any product placement.” He also said Philip Morris USA does not grant permission to media companies that ask its permission, although, it wouldn’t have declined permission in this case anyway since that is not its product.

Of course, viewers won’t know the difference. Even Philip Morris International, which is suing the Australian government for brand-free shock packaging, states on its website that “Marlboro has been the world’s number one cigarette brand since 1972 and is one of the most powerful trademarks among all consumer products.”

So why no blurring of the logo and distinctive Marlboro packaging in this case?

MTV, when reached for comment about the Marlboro package in Jersey Shore‘s season four trailer, told us, “Our standards department reviews the content on our network and makes determinations on a case-by-case basis. While we make every effort to limit cigarette smoking on our air, we also try to present our reality programming and the people in it as authentically as possible.”   

It’s well known that teen-centric MTV blurs out product logos in many of its shows, including Jersey Shore. It’s not uncommon for the Jersey Shore crew to unload from a car, and that car’s badge be a blurry mess. But it seems in this instance, it chose not to.

Ironically, there are now serious efforts to make the real Jersey Shore (you know: the seaside community in New Jersey) smoke free by 2012. One community there, Seaside Park, has the most strict smoking prohibitions in the state.

To demonstrate just how fearful tabacco brands are now about the practice, Philip Morris USA has a whole web page dedicated to its stance on the subject of project placement: “‪Our policy since 1990 has been both to refrain from paying for product placement and to decline all third-party requests to use, display or reference our cigarette brands, products, packages or advertisements in any movies or television shows or other public entertainment media.‬”

The 1998 Master Settlement Agreement made arranged cigarette product placement illegal… in the USA. Brand name cigarettes, however, still find their way onscreen, with all parties involved always shrugging and saying they had nothing to do with it.

Recent research indicates that smoking in movies targeted at youth has declined. According to Breathe California, there were 595 instances of tobacco use appeared onscreen last year in G, PG or PG-13 hit films. That’s a a 72% decrease from 2005.

Given how much the Jersey Shore cast is derided and despised, perhaps the Marlboro product placement in Jersey Shore is actually a mind-bending anti-smoking PSA effort.

Indeed, in 2010 is was revealed that high-end brands such as Gucci and Coach had been sending competitors’ handbags to cast-member Snooki in an attempt to keep her from defiling their brands by appearing onscreen clutching them.