This story originally appeared in Advertising Age on November 20, 1972.
If the late '50s and early '60s were the "age of grease" and the late '60s and early '70s the "hair era," it will be interesting to watch the next ten years.
I've had a wonderful vantage point for some time now. From the dark ages of early "American Bandstand," I have watched young people move from the freak category to today's most influential consumer group. Girls have long been heavy spenders for cosmetics and grooming products, and several such companies have long used "Bandstand" to reach that key audience. As a matter of curiosity, I air-checked one show one Saturday afternoon in October: Roughly 80% of our sponsors are in beauty aids, like Vick Chemical Co.'s Clearasil, Noxell Corp.'s Cover Girl liquid makeup and powder, and Noxzoma skin cream, and Schering-P1ough's Maybelline Ultra Liner, Ultra Lash mascara and eye shadows.
And during the summertime, Plough was with us to promote QT and Coppertone. Also, there's Warner-Lambertis Certs breath freshener and Dentyne gum. Unlike any other tv program in history, our demographics have remained constant since "Bandstand's" inception 15 years ago. "Bandstand," which in July, '57, had 2,690,000 Nielsen homes, now reaches over 6,250,000 households with 10,400,000 people, including roughly 25% sub-teens. 25% teens and 50% 18-to-35-year-olds (many of whom grew up with my show).
The facts and figures are clearcut and dry. The fun part comes in the interpretation and how best to reach the audience.
Years ago, a head-on straight pitch to the camera worked. Honesty in advertising as personified by the personal salesman was elementary, uncomplicated and widely used. Then we lived through the "gimmick era" with its fancy copy approaches, animation, quick cuts, production gloss, and so on.
Now in the 1970s, here we go again. Today's generation wants truth in advertising. It brings us right back to personal endorsements and salesmanship, that old-fashioned way of reaching the audience.
This naturalness of approach manifests itself in the look of today, and in the advertising (like the Cybil Shepherd Cover Girl commercial). Whether it's the black natural or the dry look in hair, or the organic aspect of practically everything, today's young people insist on the straightforward approach.
What I said in 1964 still applies: Make sure commercials are believable. The best advertising is a personal recommendation, but if using a "star," suit your star to the task for credibility's sake. Copywriters and stars should work together before production toward that end.
The language of the times also change. Judicious use of the vernacular of the day can help. However, out-of-date hip (or is it hep?) copy can be deadly. You can imagine speaking in terms of "groovy" or "boss" today; the message would probably never reach the consumer! Our daily activity as a youth-oriented company puts us in touch with the marketplace and we often have a feel for what's going to happen-before it happens.
Idols of the day can affect sales. Presley's people demanded hair "grease" long hair sprouted with the Beatles . . . today's young people prefer the natural look, and old-time barbers are tearing out what's left of their hair in the face of male "hair stylists."
But I remember the shock one day in the early 1960s. The scene: Speaking to a Madison Ave. agency with a men's hair care client. We predicted: "Young men are going to be using hair spray, just like the girls." I'm sure my agency friends and their "greasy kid stuff" client felt that we were losing our marbles! Subsequently, they sent us a bottle of their oil-laden, alcohol-based product -- in a bottle with a "spritzer" attachment on the top! (Obviously, a misguided R&D product.) Five or six years later, our prediction came true -- the dawn came, a little late. (Note: Gillette's Dry Look opened the men's hair aerosol market in 1970 and dominates what is now a $40,000,000-plus field.) Looking back, I recall some other marketing mis-steps:
I guess the moral is: Client, know thy customers, and the times in which they live it.