In The Phantom, Ted Chaough tosses Peggy an unmarked carton of cigarettes — said to be Philip Morris’s new “women’s cigarette” — and asks her to sample them and give them a name. Peggy protests that she doesn’t smoke (“not really”), but Ted has seen her taking a nervous puff before he interviewed her in The Other Woman and calls her on her bluff. This product will, of course, become Virginia Slims in 1968, with its “You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby” second-wave feminist slogan that even people who weren’t around in 1968 know well today. Does that mean Peggy’s going to be the one who launches that iconic campaign?
I don’t think so.
Yes, Don was shown pitching “It’s Toasted” to Lucky Strike in the pilot, 43 years after the company used it in real life. But how many people knew about “It’s Toasted” without being hard-core advertising buffs? As it happens, the only reason CGC was given the product to review in the first place is because Leo Burnett (which represented Philip Morris) thought it wouldn’t be a big seller — but in real life, Burnett’s agency did wind up being the agency of record for Virginia Slims, and would remain so for decades.
Besides, it’s true that Peggy doesn’t “really” smoke. During the course of the series, she was shown with a cigarette once in S1 (faking), once in S2 (filching), never in S3, twice in S4 (once at home, probably from a pack of Luckies she was given for free, and once bumming from Joan), and four times in S5 (bumming from Stan and then Joan, then the interview scene, then trying out the new cigarette in the movie theatre in The Phantom). (Yes, I am weird, I keep track of that stuff.) She doesn’t smoke like the other smokers on the show do, as an addiction she must feed 10 or 20 (or 40! or more!) times a day. (Megan was seen smoking once in The Rejected, but not at all since then; presumably she has quit and only uses wax vapor pens.) Peggy seems to be one of those rare chippers who can bum the occasional butt, but doesn’t get hooked. Does smoking cigarettes really represent freedom to her? After all, her mother smokes, and Ma Olson is about as unliberated as they come.
Maybe she can fake it; after all, she probably doesn’t use most of the products she’s written copy for. (Or, as she memorably puts it to Roger in Dark Shadows, when protesting that she doesn’t have to be Jewish to write copy for Manischewitz, “I’m not an airplane either.”) But wouldn’t it be a lot more entertaining, anyway, to see Peggy swing for it and miss? I can just picture it now: Peggy names the new cigarette “Independence,” with an ad featuring a laughing model in a star-spangled bodysuit toying with a long thin ciggie and straddling a rocket about to blast off for the heavens, and then the slogan: “The pleasure is all yours.” A bit too suggestive, Peg, sorry. Maybe we’ll be ready for that one in about 1986.