75 Years of Ideas

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Advertising Age is celebrating its first 75 years of service to the ad industry. We'll be sharing these moments in the pages of Ad Age on the way to the 75th anniversary issue appearing March 28. Next week: top ad moments No. 45-41.

50 Buick uses ads to sell used cars

In the spring of 1930, Buick Motor Co. introduces a new concept-using national advertising to sell its used, rather than new, cars through its dealer network.

A Buick spokesman tells Advertising Age that "it is our desire to keep used-car channels clear, in view of the approach of the most active selling season in the automobile business, and to assist dealers in making profits on used-car sales as well as sales of new cars."

The ad copy reads, in part, "Buy your Buick now, when prices are lowest. And buy it from a Buick dealer. He has a thorough knowledge of Buick construction. He conditions his Buicks carefully and prices them fairly. His establishment is the place in your community to buy a used car."

Ad Age editorializes that "Buick is trying to create a market for used Buicks among those who ordinarily would purchase a cheaper car new. Obviously this is a competitive situation, for the used Buick at $450 is just as much in competition with the Ford as the Chevrolet is. Buick is using magazine space and newspaper display ads to build up a definite demand for reconditioned Buicks sold by Buick dealers."

49 Beginnings of syndicated TV

Merv Griffin and Mike Douglas are forerunners of a new kind of programming called syndication, providing daytime TV in the 1960s with a mix of celebrity chat, oddities, news of the day and live performances. But it takes the launch of Paramount Domestic Television's "Entertainment Tonight" in 1981 to break the market open, revolutionizing the way programs are delivered and releasing networks' stranglehold on the TV industry. Advertisers and viewers get a new, high-quality TV option besides network prime time.

Before "ET," shows were delivered to TV stations on tape. After "ET," and with the help of Paramount, stations install satellite dishes for the daily programming feed. The advance in technology changes the face of TV.

These days, most programming that airs on TV between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. is syndicated, giving advertisers national reach and targeted audiences. Syndication is populated with franchises, many shows airing five days a week, building audience loyalty and advertiser value in a way that's rarely matched on network TV. Marketers aren't just buying a 30-second spot-they're buying a fan base.

Syndication has spawned some of the longest-running shows on TV, ranging from "Jeopardy" to "The Oprah Winfrey Show" and "Wheel of Fortune."

There are more than 150 hours of original shows in syndication, with such fare as "Blind Date" and "Jerry Springer."

Aside from first-run syndication-programs specifically developed for that market-reruns of such hits as "Friends," "Frasier," "Home Improvement" and "Seinfeld" give advertisers a way to reach viewers even after the series have finished their network runs.

While the TV market remains relatively flat in general, syndication revenue for the first nine months of 2004 increased 17.3% to $2.9 billion, the sharpest increase in TV, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

Martha Stewart, once a syndication darling with a show that ran for 11 years, plans a comeback in fall 2005 with the help of reality guru Mark Burnett ("The Apprentice" and "Survivor"). Her new syndicated show, featuring cooking and crafts, could revive the mature genre, which hasn't had a breakout hit recently.

48 Integration hits Madison Avenue

The civil-rights battles of the early 1960s aren't fought only in such venues as Birmingham, Ala., but also in the gray-flannel canyon of Madison Avenue.

One issue under scrutiny by various groups such as the Urban League, Congress of Racial Equality and New York City Commission on Human Rights is marketers' use of African-Americans in their advertising. Throughout 1963, New York Mayor Robert Wagner's committee on job advancement contacts more than 500 companies and ad agencies requesting cooperation in integrating ads wherever feasible; by early 1964, 73 of those contacted respond to the request and agree to meet with CORE.

Lever Bros., one of the U.S.' largest advertisers, in August 1963 solicits from its agencies ideas on how to more effectively use African-Americans and other minorities in its advertising, one of the first major advertisers to undertake such an initiative Lever is not playing catch-up. In that same month, the company is running a commercial from BBDO for Wisk detergent showing two boys-one white and the other black-playing baseball. Lever has made such a move, it says at the time, because it regards it as "good business," though before taking action, Lever consults with various civil rights groups.

Response to Lever's move is positive. Still, in the 1970s the NAACP legal defense and educational fund asks the Federal Communications Commission to take action against discriminatory advertising, charging that African-Americans have few major roles in TV commercials. Also in the '70s, numerous consumer package-goods companies-including Schering-Plough Corp.'s Pharmaco division, Clairol and Faberge-put more money toward minority consumers, but on-camera progress occurs in fits and starts.

Even in the 1990s, WASP image-maker and designer Ralph Lauren makes headlines by signing Tyson Beckford, a black male model, to an exclusive, $550,000 one-year contract. In 1992, Cover Girl becomes the first marketer of mainstream cosmetics to sign an African-American model.

47 Universal Product Code unveiled

On June 26, 1974, a scanner at a supermarket in Troy, Ohio, reads the Universal Product Code on a pack of Wrigley's gum-the culmination of a four-year effort by a coalition of grocery stores and suppliers to develop and implement the UPC as a means of controlling inventory and cutting labor costs.

Three weeks later, Paul E.J. Gerhold, president of the Advertising Research Foundation, predicts in the pages of Advertising Age that the UPC "could open the door to revolutionary changes in the management of brand advertising and the practice of advertising research." As it turns out, marketers and retailers eventually will universally embrace the Universal Product Code.

The value of the UPC is met initially with skepticism in the advertising industry-not to mention resistance from consumer groups that see it as a way to conceal prices. By 1977, fewer than 200 supermarkets are equipped with scanners, but major marketers like Procter & Gamble Co., SC Johnson & Son and Kellogg Co., as well as the Newspaper Advertising Bureau, are involved in tests of the technology's potential as a research tool. In 1980, UPC-based data come into their own with ACNielsen's introduction of the ScanTrack retail tracking service.

A 1999 study by PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates that the use of the UPC yields more than $30 billion in net economic benefits annually.

46 Bank of America debuts credit card

Bank of America credit financed the Golden Gate Bridge, "Gone With the Wind" and Disneyland, but its biggest effect on the American consumer must be the launch of BankAmericard, the first credit card.

Some form of charge cards had been around since Western Union issued a metal card to preferred customers in 1914. The Diners Club card was introduced in 1950, but credit then was for the jet set and expense-account crowd. That is, until September 1958, when Bank of America sends out 60,000 BankAmericards to middle-class households in Fresno, Calif. The new card combines the convenience of charge cards with the ability to revolve payments. Delinquencies and fraud quickly follow, but the card is here to stay.

Bank of America licenses the card to other issuing banks and in 1970 forms a bank association to manage and market BankAmericard. A group of Western banks starts Interlink to issue rival MasterCharge.

BankAmericard goes on to become Visa, and MasterCharge morphs into MasterCard. The rest is spending history. U.S. consumers put down plastic for $2.1 trillion worth of goods and services in 2003, according to The Nilson Report; that's almost 20% of the country's gross domestic product. It projects $2.3 trillion in spending for 2008.

Contributing: Mercedes M. Cardona, Robert G. Goldsborough, Jim Hanas, Lisa Sanders, T.L. Stanley

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