Monday, June 30, 2008

Maidenform exposed

According to ad lore, Maidenform's "Dream" campaign was launched in 1949 in response to a study that found that women had "exhibitionist tendencies."  To say nothing of a pre-women's liberation desire for traditionally male-dominated occupations.  These women just never seemed to show up at church or the PTA meeting in their skivvies.

By the 1960s, the ads got more fanciful, more punny and even more less self-conscious:

These women weren't just dreaming about exposing themselves in public, now they were reveling in it.

The campaign went dormant in 1971, but eight years later, it returned, this time balancing the outrageousness of the scenario with a steely, no-nonsense woman.  It managed to turn what was previously a girlish fantasy into a bizarre statement of female empowerment.

...but one that just helped prepare us for this lady in the coming decade:

Yes, "I dreamed I was a world-famous, envelope-pushing pop my underwear."

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Friday, June 27, 2008

Context is everything

That's probably as good as explanation as any of why nobody remembers this Kotex ad from 1970:

But for those who were around in 1975, this is unforgettable:

(Quick remedial history lesson here, if you need it.)

Elsewhere:  Check out AdBroad for her answer to the inevitable question, "How can I work in advertising?"

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Behind the Foster Grant campaign

In 1965, Foster Grant, then the leading U.S. marketer of moderately priced sunglasses, debuted the campaign that would earn it the 68th spot on Advertising Age's Top 100 Brands of the 20th century:

Although known as the "Who's That Behind The Foster Grants" campaign, that actually wasn't the headline that appeared in the ads:

No real mystery here, is it?  But if you read the copy, you'll see that surprise wasn't really the point:
"...our Foster Grant sunglasses have done it again.  They've given Raquel a new dimension.   Several in fact.   One moment she's capricious.  Then contented.  Now candid.  Even coy."
Captions under the photos are meant to exemplify her many moods; mostly they're just silly, but the one under Raquel in a bikini top seems prescient:
"Am I doomed, C.B., to play the sex symbol in an age of flower children?"
("C.B." seems to refer to Cecil B. DeMille, the producer/director known for his star-studded "spectacle" movies and whose initials briefly became synonymous with "Hollywood Big Shot."  The real C.B. died in 1959.)

Looking back at it, the Foster Grants campaign was like a Who's Who of young up-and-comers in '60s American pop culture, with ads featuring Anthony Quinn, Mia Farrow, Elke Sommer, Robert Goulet, Julie Christie, Vanessa Redgrave and Peter Sellers (as if he need sunglasses to change his personality).  Here's one featuring the not-yet-publicity-shy Woody Allen:

The campaign lasted in one form or another for nearly 20 years, until, spurred by falling sales, it was discontinued in 1984.  Three years later, a new campaign tried a more fashion-oriented appeal that proved no more successful at stopping the decline.

Years later, after the company changed hands a few times, the new owners of Foster Grant tried reviving the campaign in 1999, with current celebrities like the one below*.  The new versions finally used the headline as everyone always remembered it, and dropped the whole "many moods of me" thing in favor of a single glamour shot, but ultimately the revived campaign just didn't catch fire.  

Maybe in our celebrity-saturated culture there's just no longer any mystique about celebrity sightings, especially when they're so often caught in mundane moments and desperately hiding behind sunglasses.

Going back to the well once more, Foster Grant tried again in 2007 with new TV spots that featured people changing their personalities based on the sunglasses they wore and asked the (less memorable) question, “Who could you be?  Foregoing with celebrities sounds like a fresh take, but in spirit, it's pretty close to this 1972 commercial:

(*That's Cindy Crawford, if you haven't figured it out yet.)

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Hooked on Bass

Before we move on from yesterday's subject about graphic inspirations and The Smithereens, let's check out the cover of another of their albums:

Yes, that's the work of innovative graphic designer, Saul Bass.  Even if you don't know the name, you've probably seen some of his work -- stark and iconic, with a child-like sophistication (to use an oxymoronic phrase):

More examples of Saul's movie poster artwork here.  You can see some very familiar corporate logos that he designed here.  

Here's the actual title sequence for "Anatomy of a Murder:"

And, just for the heck of it, here's a recent parody of the Saul Bass style that's just too clever to pass up including here.  No disrespect intended to the late Mr. Bass.

Elsewhere: Marketing guru Seth Godin describes the fallacy of "One Fell Swoop" thinking here.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Eleven x 3

In this week's issue, Entertainment Weekly lists the poster for the 2001 remake of "Ocean's Eleven" as one of the most perfect posters of the last 25 years.

I like it. In fact, I even liked it when it as the cover of the Smithereens' third album eleven years earlier:

But the homages run both ways.  On this web site, Smithereens member Pat DiNuzio talks about the inspiration to him and fellow band member, Dennis Diken:
"When Dennis and I walked into a used bookstore and found a paperback book tie-in for Ocean's 11, that sparked our imagination to call our record Smithereens 11 and re-create the image of the paperback cover on our album."
He's referring to the original film of 1960, of course.  In fact, the album's liner notes include thank-yous to "Frank, Dean, Sammy and all of Ocean's Eleven."  Here's the paperback they must have happened upon: 

Among other similarities, you'll notice that the little silhouettes of the characters running towards a Las Vegas cityscape appears on both.

And then there's the back of the CD:

No word on whether an upcoming album will parody this movie:

Elsewhere:  Advergirl talks about the power of "crack the code" advertising in the 6/23 entry on her blog.  I've covered something similar to that here.

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Monday, June 23, 2008

Bugging out

By 1968, Avis' powerfully blunt "We try harder" campaign had been effectively checkmated by Hertz, forcing Avis' ad agency, Doyle Dane Bernbach, to settle for a softer approach:

"Just one of 47 bugs we're trying to get rid of at Avis," the ad says.  In previous ads, Avis had never flinched at admitting responsibility for any problems; now the ads were creating humorous culprits to take the blame; the change in attitude couldn't be more stark.

And it probably didn't help that Essolube that run essentially the same campaign three decades earlier:

And if those illustrations seem vaguely familiar, yes, they're by Theodore "Dr. Suess" Geisel; long before he starting regaling children with tales of Horton, The Grinch and The Cat In The Hat, Geisel was a successful magazine illustrator, editorial cartoonist and advertising artist.
(Lots of other Dr. Suess-illustrated and concepted ads here.)

UPDATE 4:30 P.M.: Apparently, Shell also beat Avis in discovering its own engine-beastie in 1952. And judging by its devilish appearance, this one seems far more malevolent in nature:

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Friday, June 20, 2008

His way for the highway

"I want to make sure that the America we see from these major highways is a beautiful America."
So proclaimed President Lyndon Johnson in 1965, announcing the America The Beautful Initiative, designed to clean up eyesores along the growing federal interstate highway system. Key to this effort was The Highway Beautification Act, which attempted to control outdoor advertising by prohibiting certain kinds of signs and regulating the places they could be posted.

As reported on the Federal Highway Administration web site:
The signing ceremony took place 2 weeks after the President had surgery to remove his gall bladder and a kidney stone at Bethesda Naval Hospital. Although he had returned to the White House only the day before, President Johnson seemed to be in an expansive mood as he recalled the drive from the hospital to the White House along the George Washington Memorial Parkway:

"I saw Nature at its purest. The dogwoods had turned red. The maple leaves were scarlet and gold . . . . And not one foot of it was marred by a single unsightly man-made obstruction--no advertising signs, no junkyards. Well, doctors could prescribe no better medicine for me."
Perhaps. But you can bet he didn't find this "man-made obstruction" offensive the year before:

(More interesting outdoor boards of the last 100 years in this book.)

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Stork choices

Is that a celebrity cameo on this Seaword billboard from 1994?

Actually, no.  It's not the Vlasic Stork, that avian deliveryman first employed in the 1960s to pitch "the pickle pregnant women crave...after all, who's a better pickle expert?"  There are similarities, obviously...the archetypal cartoon-stork's body, the little glasses, the bow tie.  But the SeaWorld stork's cap is different and he's wearing a vest (which the Vlasic stork, though you can't tell by the screen grab below, does not).

No, surprisingly, the SeaWorld stork looks a lot more like this fellow:

That's the stork delivering "Dumbo" back in 1941.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Inspiration doesn't get more divine than this

Back in 1988, an anonymous donor challenged a Florida ad agency to come up with a billboard campaign that challenged readers to consider their relationship with God.  The agency creatives came up with a series of supposed quotes from The Almighty that tended to be clever puns...

Borscht-Belt one-liners....

Questions that sounded like they were translated by the cast of "Friends"...

And a few that indulged in speculation about God's politics...

The billboards proved so popular and intriguing, that the campaign was spread to over 200 U.S. cities in 1999, and throughout the web since then.  One of the messages frequently cited as a favorite is this one:

But what are we to make of this message?  Since when is The Second Coming a threat of punishment?   And can we really forestall Judgement Day just by cleaning up our act?  Or is this just another case of the Creative Department losing track of the client while in pursuit of a clever message?
Oddly, it's the one message that isn't included on the official web site, so its possible that its was an outsider's mockup that became accepted as part of the real campaign.  The Anonymous Donor remains silent, and so far, God has made no additional comment (at least, not to me).

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Nature helps out

This 1950s era billboard (partially shown) for Phillips 66 is pretty typical for the era. In the decade following World War II, most advertising was still pretty unsophisticated, as advertisers slowly came to grips with a marketplace of greatly expanded buying power and increased competition.

Here, the idea of "smooth power" is illustrated by a lean swimmer, an analogy that is both vague and irrelevant. And apart from the anguish that seems to be man's expression, the billboard seems pretty forgettable.

But it got a lot more interesting when Missouri's Grand River flooded and partially submerged the billboard:

(An interesting, 100-year history of American billboards is available here.)

And in case you're wondering, Phillips named its gasoline after a 1927 test on Oklahoma's Highway 66 powered a car to 66 miles per hour; they took the identical numbers as a good omen and used a highway shield as their logo.  It lasted about 30 years in orange and black form before switching to the familiar red, white and black logo of today.

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Monday, June 16, 2008

Go outdoors and have fun

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Friday, June 13, 2008

"Un" Revealed

Outdoor board, 1968

No one channeled the sunny, "if it feels good, do it" spirit of the late '60s like 7-Up's "Uncola" campaign.  Complimenting their message of being different from the dominant cola soft drinks, the graphics themselves were unlike the more traditional, wholesome images Coke and Pepsi favored.  7-Up's billboards (here's another one) really indulged the counterculture in a way that had none of the condescension that usually marred other advertisers' efforts.

You've probably already realized what the billboard graphic above is based on.  If you're under 40, you may need a hint and you'll find it here.

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Advertising history repeats itself

Mercedes Benz, 1996

How the person who owns the snowplow company gets to the snowplow company.  So what's the deal with this irrelevant headline? What do we care about what the person who owns a snowplow company drives to work on presumably already plowed streets (he is the owner, after all; he's not coming in at 4 a.m.).

Well, if you have a long memory, you might recall this famous Volkswagon ad from back in the '60s (obviously, the writer of the Mercedes ad did):

(Here's a better transfer, but the announcer's in German:)

Still unanswered:  Is it wise for Mercedes Benz play off a 30-year-old commercial that few non-advertising professionals would probably recall?  And for those who don't remember the commercial, what does the ad say to them?  That the company's snowplows aren't doing their job?  That the average snowplow company owner is rollin' in dough?

File this under "Ads for Award Show Judges."  And sure enough, it was a One Show winner in 1996.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Groovy man

Alton Kelley, the artist best known for his 1960s concert posters for the Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix and others, died recently at 67. His warping typefaces, posterized graphics and lush, neo-art-deco style helped bring the psychedelic counterculture in to visual terms and was an obvious influence on his fellow artists and graphic designers.  

And obviously influenced a lot of advertising art directors as well. (That same desire to prove you're "with it" than by your outward appearance resulted in balding, middle-aged men in bell-bottoms and love beads. )

Neutrogena, 1968

KSAN, 1976

And Kelley's influence is probably stronger than ever in today's graphic culture which samples and swipes from everything.  This homage, of course, is a natural:

Roots Revival Society, 2007

But in a way, this earlier usage is even more appropriate:


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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Is the long-copy ad dead?

Contrary to the conventional wisdom of our short-attention-span culture, the long-copy ad isn't obsolete...

City Gallery, 1997

Folha de S. Paulo Newspaper, 1998

Yellow Pages, 1996

...except now, long copy is just another design element.

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Monday, June 9, 2008

Sole mates

These feet sure get around.   Ironically, though the visual first gained prominence as an appeal for contraceptive use, with each subsequent iteration, we seem to be getting further away from a message of responsibility and more toward a celebration of hedonism. (Just like real life, I suppose.)

Health Education Council, 1979

GQ, 1994

Story Gossip Magazine, 1998

Wrangler, 2001

Leave it to this footwear ad to inadvertently get us back on message:

Pony, 2004

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