R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company’s “Virile Female”

In 1990, the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company chose Houston and Nashville to test-market a new brand of cigarettes targeted at independent, free-spirited 18 to 24-year-old women who smoked Marlboro. Its marketing plan by the TRONE advertising agency described characteristics and interests of the “Virile Females” the cigarette maker was seeking–women who went to tractor pulls with their boyfriends and identified with soap opera “bitches.” The Houston-based health activist group Doctors Ought to Care DOC (DOC) created a counter-advertising campaign (“Dakota DaCough DaCancer DaCoffin”) that garnered national attention when The Houston Post and The Houston Chronicle declined to publish DOC’s paid ads out of fear of losing cigarette advertising revenue. After an alt-weekly, Houston Public News, published DOC’s parody, RJ Reynolds pulled all cigarette advertising from the paper.