The Advertising Century


Published on .

PRODUCT: Borden dairy products
DATE INTRODUCED: 1939 (first general magazine ad)
CREATOR: Stuart Peabody, Borden's director of advertising

Elsie started out as one of four cows (Mrs. Blossom, Bessie and Clara were her sidekicks) that appeared in a 1936 cartoon series featured in medical journals -- just four friendly bovines chatting together in a pasture. The ads were a big hit and doctors ordered reprints for their offices.

One day a radio commercial writer penned a letter supposedly written by Elsie and directed it to commentator Rush Hughes, who read it on the air. The gimmick proved popular and additional letters were read in subsequent broadcasts.

By 1939, Elsie was being featured in her own magazine ads and her campaign was voted the best of the year by the Jury of the 1939 Annual Advertising Awards. With the World's Fair approaching, Borden decided to feature a live Elsie in its exhibit, so company executives looked at 150 cows before settling on a 7-year-old Jersey named "You'll Do Lobelia."

The Brookfield, Mass., native was not only a beauty, she had a flair for drama. By the end of that year, more than 7 million people had caught one of Elsie's personal appearances.

After her smashing success at the 1939 World's Fair, Elsie went on to book even tonier events. She headlined a Bovine Ball at the Seventh Regiment Armory, hosted a private dinner at the Roosevelt Hotel for members of the press, and even appeared in a four-poster bed at the exhibit at the World's Fair in 1940. Her next stop was Hollywood, where she went on to star as Buttercup in the film "Little Men."

After a brief stretch out to pasture in the late 1960s, Elsie was resurrected as the Borden symbol. Today the picture of the dew-eyed cow with the sweet face and the daisy necklace continues to "moo-ve" consumers across America.