The Future Is Now
At this moment, mainstream feature films are the most powerful marketing tools on the planet. In 2012, advertisers spent over $20 billion dollars on product placement in entertainment. [citation] That’s TWENTY. BILLION. DOLLARS. Needless to say, product placement and brand integration is a deeply rooted trend that is not going away any time soon.
And don’t forget, Big Tobacco has their own astronomical advertising budgets as well. The Federal Trade Commission has stated that tobacco companies spent over $8 billion on advertising in 1999 alone and over $15 billion in 2003… And that’s what was actually on the books. Don’t forget all of the cash deals, watches, automobiles, and purebred horses that might not be counted as payments for tobacco product placement.
Also, as it turns out modern research really does prove that consumer response is much higher when a product is actually used by the celebrity/actor rather than simply appearing in the background.  So why not negotiate a bigger role for your tobacco product by working with the most beloved brotherly moviemaking duo who can weave it seamlessly into their zany, award-winning films?
As our society continues to ban tobacco advertising and outlaw smoking in public places, I guess it seems somewhat obvious why Big Tobacco — with their deep, deep pockets — would go to all these lengths and why tobacco use becomes more and more prevalent onscreen despite the complete ban of tobacco product placement in motion pictures back in 1998. [citation]
Like it or not, the Coen brothers have become an integral part of American pop culture. The Coen brothers’ films — as tobacco-ridden as they may be — are part of the fabric of America and they always will be. In Hollywood, Joel & Ethan have truly become living legends which are unparalelled in the universe. Unfortunately audiences may never truly figure out if the tremendous amounts of smoking are being purposely inserted into all of these works by the Coen brothers simply in exchange for money or as an attempt to bring realism to a historical period being depicted, or for other reasons entirely. But when it actually comes right down to it, does it really matter anyway? The fact is that many many tobacco products are present in the Coen brothers’ movies, millions and billions of people are watching these films, and in many ways these tobacco-ridden pictures will live on forever.
“Pain is temporary, film is forever.” -old Hollywood adage
Exactly. Someone should tell that one to Paul Newman. Actually, he died in 2008 after being diagnosed with lung cancer. Nothing left to show from a brilliant acting career but a few DVDs and some fucking salad dressing. Sorry… Well what the heck else can I say about the whole thing? I don’t know about you, but from where I’m sitting the whole story is jaw-dropping so I hope you actually learned something today because I surely did when I wrote this. As you saw earlier, the tobacco industry might have even had connections to the origins of slavery in America, for pete’s sake. That’s fucking astonishing. Another alarming tidbit I’ve come across during my research is how tobacco companies have supposedly been increasing nicotine levels as well as adding other addictive ingredients into cigarettes which make it nearly impossible for any rational human smoker to quit without serious medical or professional help. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but you have to remember that Big Tobacco has some of the best & brightest players on the payroll all working toward the same goal to win hearts & minds. Seriously, never underestimate the depths that Big Tobacco will sink — in an advertising sense or a scientific research sense — to gain another customer or to keep the ones they’ve got.
As you can see, each piece of the puzzle really has been leading in only one direction and ultimately paints a horrifying picture of the Coen brothers’ tobacco agenda. Even just scratching the surface I am convinced that Big Tobacco seems to have been a pillar in Hollywood and the motion picture industry since its inception. It’s like some big inside joke that everyone in Hollywood gets and I’m not in on. I mean, every time you see a classic scene from old films someone is usually smoking, and doing it glamorously.
Since my epiphany I have been gripped; completely under a spell by the overwhelming use of tobacco in Hollywood and anywhere else it appears. Since then, I have done everything within my power to cover the story from all angles while also performing the insanely tedious task of searching for tobacco within the 17 original films by the Coen brothers.
Ultimately, this in depth study of tobacco & the Coen brothers has in many ways ruined my great love of movies. Since performing the pain-staking research of counting each and every single cigarette & ashtray inside the Coens brothers’ films, I have been unable to go anywhere or do anything without tobacco-related objects screaming out to me. Tobacco products in entertainment media & in real life seem to jump out to me now like never before. The more films I watch these days, the easier it is for me to conceive of clever agents working behind the scenes to pepper our favorite movies with tobacco products. Also, I’ve learned quite alot about things like product placement; probably more than anyone should know and still be able to maintain that certain level of naiveté that is required to enjoy films on an emotional level. Going forward, it is likely I will be watching alot less movies and television altogether.
As one Hudsucker board member says: “I’m getting off this merry-go-round!”
Unfortunately, I feel like I have seen more than a hundred lifetimes’ worth of tobacco advertisements in one form or another and I don’t think I can bear to witness another. I’ve spent nearly two years of my life researching this project by watching movies, reading books, tracking down research papers… Basically chipping away at the story. During that time, I’ve also had the pleasure of seeing a new Coen brothers’ film released which in many ways has totally confirmed my off-the-wall theories. The Coens’ latest film Hail, Caesar! (2015) delivered the second most tobacco incidents of any Coen brothers’ film! As I mentioned, the Coens might be working on a remake of “Scarface” so maybe they can break their own record for tobacco incidents.
Anyways, what started off as a short article about the Coens & tobacco has blossomed into a substantial book of intrigue and espionage… well sort of. But now, I really am done. Completing this epic tale now feels like exercising some kind of major tobacco demon but I do think there’s finally enough evidence to prove my point. Above all, I can now skip over the next howevermany Coen brothers’ films and all the other big Hollywood bullshit blockbusters and not feel like I’m missing anything. These million dollar movies really are all the same these days so I’ll just spend my money on something else, I guess. I think it really is time to Say Goodnight to Hollywood as my friends like to say when someone on television gets their ass knocked out cold.
So do you still think my wormy little theory about the Coen brothers is just one big coincidence or is it finally starting to make some sense? Either way, you know that any upcoming films by the Coen brothers probably won’t be featuring Coca-Cola or Chevrolet trucks, that’s for sure. You know the biggest celebrity appearing in the next Coens’ picture probably won’t be Jeff Bridges, Josh Brolin, or George Clooney. So, who will receive the most screen time in the Coen brothers’ next flick? I’ll give you one guess.
Since the ultimate advertising goal of Big Tobacco is probably to get as many people as possible seeing their tobacco products in movies, I would say that my crazy Coen Brothers + Big Tobacco = True Love Always theory has unfolded far better than anyone could have ever planned or possibly imagined. The enormous success of the Coen brothers’ feature films has made them a household name and therefore every instance of tobacco in their movies is now being viewed by literally hundreds of millions of eyes. That’s alot of serious impressions being made. What impression has it made on you?
Or is it?
Witness the smoke & mirrors for yourself…
For my detailed breakdown of all 17 Coen brothers’ films
including all 4,000 individual tobacco incidents, click here.