75 Years of Ideas

Published on .

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. 30-26.

35 Apple Computer's `1984' commercial

The Macintosh changed computing. "1984" changed advertising. Apple Computer launches Macintosh with the celebrated Super Bowl spot Jan. 22, 1984, presenting a simple alternative to IBM's clunky Personal Computer. The 60-second commercial champions a bigger idea: Power-computing power-to the people.

The Orwellian "1984" shows a youthful woman hurling a mallet at a giant screen to kill Big Brother-IBM, for viewers who need a translation. Apple spends $400,000 to make the ad and $500,000 for its single national paid airing. The commercial, created by Chiat/Day and directed by famed movie director Ridley Scott, turns the Super Bowl into advertising's biggest event and goes on to score 12th place on Advertising Age's list of the century's 100 best campaigns.

It isn't enough, though. Apple's 1985 Super Bowl spot flops. The company fires founder Steven Jobs in `85, Chiat/Day in `86.

Apple rises and falls again, and Mr. Jobs returns for an encore in 1996, rehires the agency and reinvents Apple around a new icon, iPod. While Apple continues to innovate in features and design, it's fighting to remain a factor in a Windows world. Twenty-one years after "1984," Apple has a scant 2% share.

34 Photography-driven `Life' on newsstands

On Nov. 23, 1936, Time Inc.'s new photography-driven magazine appears on newsstands. It's a format that succeeds with readers and advertisers, and still tries to find a niche today.

Even Time Inc.'s first rollout of Life in '36 is a relaunch of sorts; Henry Luce acquired an existing humor title after deciding "Life" was the perfect name for his new venture. The first cover of Time Inc.'s Life features a photograph of Montana's Fort Peck Dam by Fortune photographer Margaret Bourke-White. The weekly debuts with a cover price of 10¢ and a circulation guarantee of 250,000.

Life's general content and vivid photography prove to be a hit with consumers and advertisers alike. By 1942, the large-format title has more than 4 million subscribers and will eventually become the first magazine to book more than $100 million a year in ad space.

The era of the big photo magazine is heading for decline, however, and the weekly Life is shuttered in 1972; it's restarted as a monthly in '78 but dies again in 2000. Time Inc., unwilling to let the title fade into oblivion, revives Life in October 2004 as a magazine-quality, but free, weekly newspaper supplement. Ad support so far appears lackluster, again raising the question of Life or death.

33 Reeves' Unique Selling Proposition

The Unique Selling Proposition existed in substance long before Rosser Reeves springs it on the industry and public as the Rosetta Stone of all successful marketing in his 1961 best seller "Reality in Advertising. "Mr. Reeves walks in the old-time, reason-why religion of Lord & Thomas' John E. Kennedy and Claude Hopkins. He learns to wield the hard-sell hammer on household package brands via radio in the 1930s at Blackett-Sample-Hummert. As creative boss at Ted Bates in the 1940s and `50s, Mr. Reeves codifies his thinking into the three simple laws of the USP: 1) specific benefit; 2) unique to the product; 3) desirable to the consumer.

In an industry desperate for the reassuring comforts of scientific "laws," the USP seems to offer a Euclidian certainty to the messy business of persuasion. Where no unique benefit exists, Mr. Reeves suggests, one may be created, a notion that lands such Bates clients as Anacin and Carter's Little Liver Pills before the Federal Trade Commission for false advertising.

By the time Mr. Reeves dies in 1984 at age 74, the USP has become one of many agency formulas for success, all essentially the same. But none would ever seem as influential-or as certain of itself-as the Reeves USP. As the old Sy Oliver song says, " 'Taint what you do, it's the way that you do it."

32 Beginnings of cable, satellite-delivered TV

A TV dealer in Lansford, Pa., in 1949 finds he can't sell any sets because mountains block the nearest transmissions 65 miles away. So he organizes the Panther Valley Television Co., builds an antenna on the highest adjacent mountain and hooks it in to local valley sets by wire. Thus is born what comes to be called "community antenna television" or CATV, a medium that, with the help of additional advances in technology, today bedevils the big broadcast networks in their pursuit of advertisers and viewers.

For two decades, cable systems serve geographically challenged villages. But any video visionary knows that if you can serve a town from a mountaintop, you can cover a hemisphere from a satellite 22,000 miles out in space. In December 1961, the United Nations puts it imprimatur on an international satellite communications system, and eight months later Walter Cronkite presides over the first exchange of live TV transmissions between the U.S. and Europe via Telstar. It's a spectacular telecast, but the link is only good for the 20 minutes or so when the satellite is over the Atlantic.

To solve the problem, the International Telecommunications Satellite Consortium, or Intelsat, is created on Aug. 20, 1964. The following April, Early Bird (Intelsat I) is put into a synchronous orbit, and "live via satellite" enters the catalog of familiar phrases. The first global system is completed by July 1969, just in time to broadcast man's first moon landing to 500 million viewers worldwide on July 20.

31 The `bug bomb' and aerosol can technology

U.S. Marines in the Pacific during World War II face an almost unseen enemy: bugs carrying malaria. So in 1943, two Agriculture Department researchers, Lyle Goodhue and William Sullivan, create a small insecticide spray of DDT (another invention of wartime) propelled by compressed fluorocarbons.

It works. Though patented in 1927 in Norway, the model aerosol "bomb" is one of hundreds of dividends of the race to win World War II. It goes on to become the basis of a postwar spray-on technology that includes everything from paint to hairspray, deodorant to whipped cream-an attribute of convenience that will be touted in countless ads.

But that's only the beginning of marketers' "peace dividend." The billions in cash that accumulate during four years of full employment and product scarcity explode into a postwar buying stampede that sucks military technologies into a booming consumer economy: prefabrication builds the suburbs; penicillin revolutionizes medicine; chemistry remakes textiles into wrinkle-free nylon, Dacron, Orlon and acetates.

But the most far-reaching product of wartime that injects itself into peacetime is the power to manage it all. If victory was a miracle of management that had shaped statistical measurement into the most methodical and feared weapon on earth, the power to make performance into more than the sum of its parts becomes the war's greatest bequest to peace.

contributing: jim hanas, bradley johnson, john mcdonough

In this article:
Most Popular