1-800-Flowers' Valentine's card from 25 years ago
“Welcome to Valentine’s Day marketing, 1995 style,” Ad Age staffer Leah Rickard wrote 25 years ago this week. And indeed, her article on V-Day campaigns by FTD and “800-Flowers” (for some reason Ad Age dropped the 1) is a delightful throwback.
Of course at the time, this was pretty savvy stuff. 1-800-Flowers was among the first retailers to partner with CompuServe (in 1992) and with America Online (1994). In September of 1995, seven months after this Valentine’s Day issue, the company registered the 1800flowers.com domain name. “The Westbury, N.Y.-based company is shooting to score with the interactive crowd with an online contest,” Rickard wrote. Promoted on America Online, CompuServe and eWorld, the contest encouraged customers to write a poem about the person they love. The winner? A fellow named John Gretchen from Delaware penned a verse for his fiancée, whom he met on AOL.
In 1995, flowers were a $12.4 billion industry and, predictably, Valentine’s Day was its biggest day. Florists’ Transword Delivery, or FTD, teamed with public radio stations around the country for the occasion to raise money for National Public Radio as then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich was threatening to cut funding to public broadcasting. In a twist that would presage donations made to Planned Parenthood in Vice President Mike Pence’s name a generation later, some “sardonic sweethearts” were sending flowers directly to Gingrich himself.
On a separate page in the same issue, under the rubric “Numbers for the ’90s,” we learn the shocking truth that women like getting flowers more than men do, and both prefer getting dinner for Valentine’s Day, according to a survey by NFO Research. The menfolk do appreciate receiving a good CD or tape, though. Never let them say that Ad Age is afraid to get to the hard truths early and often.