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March 2015 Retro Gaming Article


A red Atari Lynx, with Marlboro Go, was among many Marlboro Adventure Team marketing tactics

A red Atari Lynx?!? Yep - bight red... with a Marlboro Adventure Team logo.
It seems that cigarette companies have long known the secret to attaining new customers is to entice them at an early age. Video games certainly fit the bill in the early 1990s. Phillip Morris' team of adventurers put their brand on all sorts of items.

Marlboro Adventure Team's red Atari Lynx I remember growing up in the era of the "Marlboro Man" and his red/white motif as he rode off into the sunset. He seemed to be the pinacle of manly-men... just as the cigarette companies hoped. But his rise came from a problem at PM headquarters.

It seemed that women favored Marlboros and this caused shrinking sales among men. The solution was to brand the cigarettes with manliness - a cowboy. Thus the Marlboro Man came to be.

From here, there was a whole branded campaign aimed at targeting... everyone. The Marlboro brand (or at least it's color pallet) began to adorn t-shirts, jackets, hats, and wearable items available in the Marlboro Catalog. Then it blossomed into a wide variety of items including Atari's handheld game console, the Lynx. Much the way Gene Simmons likes to put the "Kiss" logo on every imaginable product, this was the strategy - a few decades earlier - that Phillip Morris pioneered.

This leaves us with a very limited edition of the Atari Lynx in a bright red color with a German Marlboro Adventure Team logo- which hints at the release of the product. Long ago, I remember seeing Marlboro catalogs - you could earn points from the cigarette packs and redeem them for Marlboro branded items. I don't know for sure, but I suspect this is where the red Atari Lynx fits in - although I doubt this was available in the US.

Marlboro Adventure Team's red Atari Lynx The picture's placard reads:
Marlboro Lynx - A specially designed Lynx that was part of a give-away involving Marlboro cigarettes. You collected points off your packs which could be redeemed for prizes. Not sure if this was available in the U.S. It also came with a motocycle racing game called Marlboro Go.

Marlboro Go - The Pack-in Game

Marlboro Go screenshot Interestingly, Phillip Morris wasn't content to simply create a red conversation piece. "Say, where did you get that red Lynx?"

They created a motorcycle game that came with the handheld console. With absolutely no connection between video games and cigarettes, I find it odd that they went to the expense and effort to create a branded video game too. On the other hand, it creates another opportunity to put the Marlboro brand in front of a new audience.

It should come as no surprise that this game is repetitive and rather boring. The back ground music is on a short loop and the motocycle engine sounds are not too impressive. After playing the ROM, it seems clear that this game was made explicitly to place the Marlboro brand in front of what Phillip Morris hoped would be a future-smoker.

In the US, cigarette advertising has been eliminated from most mainstream media. The idea of a cigarette manufacturer releasing a branded video game is unthinkable in today's marketing landscape. Most movies are even removing smokers... unless it's the film's villan. Times change quicker than you might think. It took decades for for medical research to link smoking with disease. Still, cigarettes are available for sale at nearly every corner-store.

Marlboro Go screenshot In a related vein, I'm interested that many pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens have stopped selling cigarettes and now advertise themselves as pseudo medical outlets. I'm sure they've discovered more profit in pretending to be doctors versus the former retailing of cigarettes. Don't be fooled.

No pharmacy employee is qualified to offer YOU medical advice because they wear a white coat. New TV advertising leads viewers to believe local pharmacies can offer the same care as your doctor's office.

I guess you have to weigh the evils for your own cause. What's worse... A video game branded with cigarette marketing or a pharmacy pretending to be an alternative to your doctor's advice. As Mulder would say, trust no one! And if you see a red Lynx, buy it!

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