Dave's cigarette brand

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

Dave's cigarette brand was a discounted Philip Morris (PM) brand

Ad for Dave's cigarette

targeted at "young adult male smokers," who are referred to in PM documents as "YAMS." The idea was to create a discount brand that would make low-income YAMS feel as though they were buying by choice, not because they were broke. A 1994 presentation prepared for PM by the advertising firm Young & Rubicam, describes the plight of YAMS and the gap "Dave's" would strive to fill:

Economic reality forces a trade down...Nothing comes close to cigarettes in terms of a degrading trade-down...In a category that is supposed to be a reward and indulgence, a discount cigarette stands for the antithesis of what smoking is all about. Therefore YAMS can't feel good about purchasing discount cigarettes when they have to. In their heart of hearts, they would like to feel that when they buy a discount brand, it's because they choose to -- not because they happen to be cheap, broke or desperate. [1]

Dave's was designed to be a magical brand that would make it okay for YAMS to buy discount cigarettes. To sell "Dave's," PM created a fictional cigarette company run by a fictional, independent, honest, hard-working guy named "Dave" who got around in a down-to-earth 1957 yellow pickup truck. Ads for "Dave's" cigarettes touted "Dave" as a youthful renegade who got fed up with the establishment and struck out on his own. There was no hint in the ads that the product was made by Philip Morris.

One ad read:

"Dave was fed up with cheap, fast burning smokes. Instead of just getting mad, he did something about it. He read some books, cleared twenty acres and got to work. He put a down payment on a tractor and traded his lawn mower for a weather radio. And then it was just a matter of waiting for the final frost of the season and a new moon. In early April, Dave sowed his first seeds. A few sunny days later, Dave's Tobacco Company was born. Word spread about Dave's "different smokes." His tobacco leaves were hand picked, then barn cured and barrel aged for rich taste. And to make sure they burned perfectly, each smoke was packed tight. People started buying these new smokes that didn't burn fast and tasted great. They told their friends..who told their friends. Now Dave works for nobody but himself. And it all started with a few tobacco seeds..and a dream." [2]

Focus group testing showed, though, that if and when YAMS discovered that "Dave's" cigarettes were really made by the Philip Morris Tobacco Company, the felt disappointed and betrayed. PM minimized the importance of this finding, however, and pressed ahead with the marketing brand. [3]

Shortly after Dave's hit the market, humor columnist Dave Barry wrote a scathing column ripping "Dave's" cigarettes:

I want to stress that I'm not bitter about what the Philip Morris Corp. is trying to do with the name "Dave." In case you didn't know, Philip Morris is test-marketing a new brand of cigarettes called "Dave's." Over the past year I've seen big billboard advertisements for "Dave's" cigarettes in Seattle and Denver. These are folksy ads; one of them features a tractor. The message is that "Dave's" is a folksy brand of cigarette, produced by a down-to-earth, tractor-driving guy named "Dave" for ordinary people who work hard and make an honest living, at least until they start coughing up big folksy chunks of trachea. .." [4]

A 1995 Wall Street Journal article also ripped PM's effort to deceive smokers with "Dave":

Dave's Cigarettes" has become a trend setter in anti-establishment marketing. The promotional literature describes Dave as "an entrepreneur who believes in the value of home made products and the concept of offering folks quality cigarettes at the right price. Dave is such a populist he tells store owners he doesn't even want his folksy cigs to "mix with the 'corporate' cigarettes." Now take a guess as to which $60 billion tobacco giant owns Dave's? If you said Phillip Morris you win a half case of Red Dog beer (also owned by PM). Nowhere does Phillip Morris, in it's self-described effort to "convey cutting edge hipness," acknowledge it's relation to "Dave." Just being "plain folks" I guess.(Wall Street Journal 3/2/95)

Other SourceWatch Resources


  1. Young & Rubicam, "Dave's", Bates No 2044826305, January 16, 1994.
  2. The tale of Dave's Original Blend, Tobaccodocuments.org, undated, accessed June 2007.
  3. M. Wood, "Dave's Seattle Research", Philip Morris, Bates Number 2045165728, April 3, 1994.
  4. Dave Barry, "'Dave's' cigarettes have him fuming", New Standard, July 28, 1996.