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. 60-56.

65 Edsel introduced

Ford Motor Co. sells the Edsel for only 26 months before the marque wins infamy as one of the automaker's biggest flops. It became a cautionary tale for marketers that want to forge ahead with new products unfettered by consumer research.

The midprice line is hyped by Ford as a flashy car of the future for two years before the Edsel goes on sale in fall 1957. Ford spends $250 million to develop the Edsel and introduces it with a $15 million blitz via Foote, Cone & Belding, Chicago, with the understated launch line "This is the Edsel."

But the Edsel, with its vertical, horse-collar grille and push-button transmission, doesn't catch on. Sales of the Edsel, part of the Lincoln-Edsel-Mercury division, are far below Ford's projected 200,000 units annually, with only a total of 110,847 ever built. Ford pulls the plug suddenly in late 1959. Ford fails to do consumer research before developing the line, learning too late that Americans wants conservative-looking cars. Also, a recession stirs Americans' interest in smaller autos from rivals.

64 `A diamond is forever'

The year: 1948. Frances Gerety, an N.W. Ayer copywriter, gets the assignment to create a new campaign for DeBeers Consolidated Mines, the South Africa-based diamond cartel. One night, after finishing a series of ads for a presentation, Ms. Gerety realizes she hasn't included a signature line. Exhausted, she says, "Please, God, send me a line." She then dashes off four words that would become embedded in the collective American consciousness: "A diamond is forever." Few phrases have had such marketing impact. Since the Depression, diamond ring sales had languished. By the end of the 1940s, two years into the campaign, the number of married American women who own diamond engagement rings has risen to 60%.

63 MCI competes with AT&T

In the old days, phones had wires, and callers knew only one name: Ma Bell. But the Federal Communications Commission in 1969 approves an application by Microwave Communications Inc. for a private phone system between Chicago and St. Louis. This becomes the spark that eventually detonates the high-spending telecom marketing wars that persist to this day.

MCI, run by pugnacious Bill McGowan, badgers regulators and battles American Telephone & Telegraph Co. for years, win- ning the OK to sell long-distance service to business and consumers. D-Day-deregulation-comes on Jan. 1, 1984, with the Bell System's breakup into a shrunken AT&T and seven "Baby Bells." MCI turns on its marketing machine, and the phone wars begin in earnest.

WorldCom swallows MCI in 1998, but accounting scandals send MCI WorldCom spiraling into Chapter 11 in 2002. The next chapter isn't so clear. Long-distance prices plummet, and the market is upended by new competition from Baby Bells, as well as wireless and Internet-based phone services. AT&T in 2004 largely abandons the consumer market. MCI wins the battle, but both it and nemesis AT&T end up losing the war.

62 Fox network debuts

In April 1987, Rupert Murdoch muscles his way into prime-time TV with his new Fox network. Also helping create this fourth U.S. broadcast network are two TV executives-Barry Diller, as Fox CEO, and President Jamie Kellner. It's a move that will open the way for edgier content across the broadcast dial, even though Fox initially reaches only about 24% of TV homes through a handful of independent stations in the main markets. As a result, it suffers from lack of viewer awareness until the media discover the controversial "Married ... With Children."

That sitcom coupled with "The Late Show With Joan Rivers," which made its debut in October 1986, earn Fox a reputation for envelope-pushing early on. Just two years later, Fox is reportedly charging ad rates for "Married" that are on a par with CBS' "60 Minutes."

61 Tampax starts educating women

Tampax Inc., one of the first marketers of tampons, earns the headline "Tampax starts education of women in U.S." in an August 1936 issue of Advertising Age. A Tampax print campaign depends "on the power of advertising to revolutionize feminine hygiene." The Ad Age article goes on to call the campaign "daring." But more than that, Tampax revolutionizes the marketing of personal hygiene products for women.

To encourage publishers to accept what might have been deemed risque copy due to the feminine-hygiene subject matter, Tampax sends product samples to magazine employees with the request that female staffers try them and test the copy claims. To spur sales, ads run with coupons, which consumers can redeem via the company; a booklet responding to anticipated consumer queries is made available at point of purchase. An Ad Age follow-up in March 1937 reveals the success of Tampax's bold move: 80% of drug and department stores nationwide are now carrying Tampax.

Tampax, bought from Tambrands by Procter & Gamble Co. in 1997, currently leads the category with a 45% market share in unit sales for the 52 weeks ended Nov. 28, 2004, according to Information Resources Inc. And education remains a key aim.

Contributing: Claire Atkinson, Robert G. Goldsborough, Jean Halliday, Bradley Johnson, Lisa Sanders

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