Ben-Hur Cigarette Tobacco 

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This is an early example of commercial sponsorship of a radio show, produced shortly after the government permitted radio advertising in 1936. In this case, a music programme is sponsored by Ben-Hur cigarette tobacco. "It’s choice Virginia leaf and it rolls a perfect cigarette." The theme music, "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" (Harbach & Kern), has obviously been chosen with the sponsor in mind, and the music tracks (all songs from recent films) are introduced or back-announced with a reference to the appealing qualities of Ben-Hur tobacco.

The announcer (possibly Claude Agassiz) gives careful consideration to the linguistic pairing of the advertising slogans with the songs – for example, he matches the Cole Porter song "You’re the Top," with a reference to "the tip-top tobacco, Ben-Hur." Listeners are also invited to write to Ben-Hur for a free sample.

The audio quality is poor as this recording seems to have been made from a broadcast, as it was received "off-air," not recorded in the studio. New Zealand radio was only rarely recorded in the 1930s, with most broadcasts simply going out live-to-air. (Note: the music content has been edited for copyright reasons.)

Image: Vintage RCA Tombstone Radio, c. 1936 (courtesy of Joe Haupt, flickr).

Catalogue Reference 258377

Year 1936


Advertiser: Ben-Hur Cigarette Tobacco
Broadcaster: 1ZB Auckland

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