The hashtag #jeffwecan is trending in the United States this morning, though not internationally, after John Oliver issued a call to action last night on a new mascot that his HBO late-night show, Last Week Tonight, has created to be the “new face of Marlboro: Jeff the Diseased Lung in a Cowboy Hat.”
Oliver called on the public to upload images of Jeff to Google+ and tag the little guy with “Marlboro,” in hopes of pushing the cartoon character to the top of Google image search for the tobacco brand.
It was part of the show’s look at how the tobacco industry is working to block countries from mandating more graphic health warnings on cigarette packaging. Particularly, Oliver looked at legal threats against smaller countries that can’t afford expensive lawsuits, including Uruguay, Togo, and the Solomon Islands.
“It’s clear what each side wants,” Oliver said. “Countries want to warn their citizens about the health dangers of smoking tobacco. Tobacco companies want to be able to present branded images that they have spent time and money to cultivate.”
By way of compromise, Oliver unveiled Jeff.
“We are offering Jeff to you, Philip Morris, to use as you wish,” Oliver said, noting his show has graciously already launched Jeff public awareness campaigns, including billboards in Montevideo, Uruguay, and a T-shirt blitz in Togo. “He’s already out there. You just need to claim him. Our lawyers, unlike yours, will not sue!”
Here’s the show segment: