The Advertising Game The remarkable thing about Atummyc Afterbath Dusting Powder was that it gave you that lovely, radiant, atomic look--just the way the advertisements said it would. In fact, it also gave you a little something
The advertising game is not as cut and dried as many people think. Sometimes you spend a million dollars and get no results, and then some little low-budget campaign will catch the public's fancy and walk away with merchandising honors of the year.
Let me sound a warning, however. When this happens, watch out! There's always a reason for it, and it isn't always just a matter of bright slogans and semantic genius. Sometimes the product itself does the trick. And when this happens people in the industry lose their heads trying to capitalize on the "freak" good fortune.
This can lead to disaster. May I cite one example?
I was on loan to Elaine Templeton, Inc., the big cosmetics firm, when one of these "prairie fires" took off and, as product engineer from the firm of Bailey Hazlitt & Persons, Advertising Agency, I figured I had struck pure gold. My assay was wrong. It was fool's gold on a pool of quicksand. Madame "Elaine", herself, had called me in for consultation on a huge lipstick campaign she was planning--you know, NOW AT LAST, A TRULY KISS-PROOF LIPSTICK!--the sort of thing they pull every so often to get the ladies to chuck their old lip-goo and invest in the current dream of non-smearability. It's an old gimmick, and the new product is never actually kiss-proof, but they come closer each year, and the gals tumble for it every time.
Well, they wanted my advice on a lot of details such as optimum shades, a new name, size, shape and design of container. And they were ready to spend a hunk of moolah on the build-up. You see, when they give a product a first-class advertising ride they don't figure on necessarily showing a profit on that particular item. If they break even they figure they are ahead of the game, because the true purpose is to build up the brand name. You get enough women raving over the new Elaine Templeton lipstick, and first thing you know sales start climbing on the whole line of assorted aids to seduction.
Since E. T., Inc., was one of our better accounts, the old man told me to take as long as was needed, so I moved in to my assigned office, in the twelve-story E. T. building, secretary, Scotch supply, ice-bags, ulcer pills and all, and went to work setting up my survey staff. This product engineering is a matter of "cut and try" in some fields. You get some ideas, knock together some samples, try them on the public with a staff of interviewers, tabulate the results, draw your conclusions and hand them over to Production with a prayer. If your ad budget is large enough your prayer is usually answered, because the American Public buys principally on the "we know what we like, and we like what we know" principle. Make them "know it" and they'll buy it. Maybe in love, absence makes the heart grow fonder, but in this business, familiarity breeds nothing but sales.
Madame Elaine had a fair staff of idea boys, herself. In fact, every other department head had some gimmick he was trying to push to get personal recognition. The Old Hag liked this spirit of initiative and made it plain to me I was to give everyone a thorough hearing.
This is one of the crosses you have to bear. Everyone but the janitor was swarming into my office with suggestions, and more than half of them had nothing to do with the lipstick campaign at all. So I dutifully listened to each one, had my girl take impressive notes and then lifted my left or my right eyebrow at her. My left eyebrow meant file them in the wastebasket. This is how the Atummyc Afterbath Dusting Powder got lost in the shuffle, and later I was credited with launching a new item on which I didn't even have a record.
It came about this way:
Just before lunch one day, one of the Old Hag's promotion-minded pixies flounced her fanny into my interview chair, crossed her knees up to her navel and began selling me her pet project. She was a relative of the Madame as well as a department head, so I had to listen.
Her idea was corny--a new dusting powder with "Atummion" added, to be called, "Atummyc Afterbath Dusting Powder"--"Atummyc", of course, being a far-fetched play on the word "atomic". What delighted her especially was that the intimate, meaningful word "tummy" occurred in her coined trade name, and this was supposed to do wonders in stimulating the imaginations of the young females of man-catching-age.
As I said, the idea was corny. But the little hazel-eyed pixie was not. She was about 24, black-haired, small-waisted and bubbling with hormones. With her shapely knees and low-cut neckline she was a pleasant change of scenery from the procession of self-seeking middle-agers I had been interviewing--not that her motive was any different.
I stalled a little to feast my eyes. "This Atummion Added
item," I said, "just what is Atummion
"That's my secret," she said, squinching her eyes at me like a fun-loving little cobra. "My brother is assistant head chemist, and he's worked up a formula of fission products we got from the Atomic Energy Commission for experimentation."
"Fission products!" I said. "That stuff's dangerous!"
"Not this formula," she assured me. "Bob says there's hardly any radiation to it at all. Perfectly harmless."
"Then what's it supposed to do?" I inquired naively.
She stood up, placed one hand on her stomach and the other behind her head, wiggled and stretched. "Atummyc Bath Powder will give milady that wonderful, vibrant, atomic
feeling," she announced in a voice dripping with innuendo.
"All right," I said, "that's what it's supposed to do. Now what does it really do?"
"Smells good and makes her slippery-dry, like any other talcum," she admitted quite honestly. "It's the name and the idea that will put it across."
"And half a million dollars," I reminded her. "I'm afraid the whole thing is a little too far off the track to consider at this time. I'm here to make a new lipstick go. Maybe later--"
"I appreciate that, but honestly, don't you think it's a terrific idea?"
"I think you're terrific," I told her, raising my left eyebrow at my secretary, "and we'll get around to you one of these days."
"Oh, Mr. Sanders!" she said, exploding those big eyes at me and shoving a half-folded sheet of paper at me. "Would you please sign my interview voucher?"
In Madame Elaine's organization you had to have a written "excuse" for absenting yourself from your department during working hours. I supposed that the paper I signed was no different from the others. Anyway, I was still blinded by the atomic blast of those hazel eyes.
After she left I got to thinking it was strange that she had me sign the interview receipt. I couldn't remember having done that for any other department heads.
I didn't tumble to the pixie's gimmick for a whole month, then I picked up the phone one day and the old man spilled the news. "I thought you were making lipstick over there. What's this call for ad copy on a new bath powder?"
The incident flashed back in my mind, and rather than admit I had been by-passed I lied, "You know the Madame. She always gets all she can for her money."
The old man muttered, "I don't see taking funds from the lipstick campaign and splitting them off into little projects like this," he said. "Twenty-five thousand bucks would get you one nice spread in the Post, but what kind of a one-shot campaign would that be?"
I mumbled excuses, hung up and screamed for the pixie. My secretary said, "Who?"
"Little sexy-eyes. The Atomic Bath Powder girl."
Without her name it took an hour to dig her up, but she finally popped in, plumped down and began giggling. "You found out."
"How," I demanded, "did you arrange it?"
"Easy. Madame Elaine's in Paris. She gave you a free hand, didn't she?"
"Well, when you signed your okay on the Atummyc--"
"That was an interview voucher!"
"Not--exactly," she said ducking her head.
The damage was done. You don't get ahead in this game by admitting mistakes, and the production department was already packaging and labelling samples of Atummyc Bath Powder to send out to the distributors.