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. 40-36.

45 J&J's Tylenol tampering case

Chicago is hit hard in October 1982 by the news that people are dying, apparently at random, from taking the top-selling pain reliever Tylenol. Someone is lacing capsules with cyanide. The city clears store shelves and Johnson & Johnson pulls advertising nationally. As the death total reaches seven, the question is: How can the $500 million brand survive? The answer: exemplary marketing to reassure consumers. Such crisis management becomes a template for future efforts.

It helps that corporate, governmental and law enforcement officials determine the tampering is occurring at the retail level, not in manufacturing, so J&J moves to save its business. Recalls are conducted; tamper-proof packaging is developed; newspaper ads from Compton tell consumers how to return unused capsules for replacements in tablet form. Near the end of the month, the marketer's medical officer appears in TV spots talking about trust in the brand and promising a triple-sealed bottle, which arrives as soon as December, launching revolutionary change in product packaging.

As 1983 dawns, an advertising introduction starts Tylenol on a climb to a market share surpassing that attained before the crisis. This "comeback" goes into the business textbooks as a model case of successful public relations, organized by a specialized crisis management team at Burson-Marsteller.

The murder cases remain unsolved.

44 Bubble bursts as dot-coms crash

The year 2000 is supposed to be when pure-play dot-coms are going to rule the world. Seventeen of the commercials that air during Super Bowl XXXIV were from dot-coms, with companies such as Monster.com, Pets.com and E-Trade Securities spending an average of $2.2 million for 30-second spots that left most viewers wondering exactly what these companies are selling.

But on Friday, April 14, 2000, Wall Street experiences its biggest one-day fall in history, and U.S. markets lose $2 trillion in value. The hardest hit is Nasdaq, the stock exchange popular with high-tech companies. Many of the dot-coms are doomed to failure because of the lack of a sound business plan or wasteful marketing, some having started to unravel before the day of the crash. Among the most spectacular examples is Pets.com, which had raised $82.5 million in an initial public offering in February 2000.

Even as the Internet business world implodes, the popularity of the Internet grows. As of August 2001, more than 513 million people are online, an increase of about 150 million from the year before. And, helped by Americans flocking to the Internet for news after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in September, the Web grows 33% in 2001.

Meanwhile, businesses quietly regroup. Amazon doesn't become consistently profitable, but it becomes perhaps the premier site at selling product and delivering top-notch customer service. By 2004, interactive media buyers are describing major portals Yahoo, MSN and America Online as analogous to the mass reach of the TV networks, and ad revenue is expected to top $9.4 billion by 2004 and double that in 2005.

43 `Star Wars' saga begins

After a number of studios pass on it, Fox releases "Star Wars" in May 1977. George Lucas' space saga marks a number of interconnected milestones. It represents the beginning of movie merchandising and the megamarketed blockbuster; it marks the end of the artistically fecund era of the 1970s, when auteur-driven films challenged audiences and the Hollywood system.

"Star Wars," which cost around $10 million to produce, grosses nearly $200 million at the end of its initial run, surpassing the previous box office champ "Jaws," which earned $129 million in 1975. Mr. Lucas prudently accepts a lower director's fee for "Star Wars" in favor of a larger chunk of the gross, and merchandising rights. Action figures, T-shirts, books and other merchandise are seen not just as promotional tools for the film but as an important new revenue stream. By the time the "Star Wars" trilogy is rereleased in 1997, merchandise has generated more than $3 billion.

As a corollary, "Star Wars" is credited with essentially wrecking American film-creating the studios' blockbuster mentality and focus on instant box-office gratification, encouraging one-dimensional characters (the better to build a toy or video game around), and emphasizing eye-popping visual effects, easily digestible plots and happy endings. Nobody anticipates the ultimate cinematic affront: Jar Jar Binks.

42 Avis declares that it's No. 2

It's a marketing revelation of Old Testament proportions. There is a way to take on a Goliath-like rival: revel in the fact you're not the biggest. Avis, longtime second banana in rental cars, shocks the marketing world in 1963 with its "We try harder" campaign. The first print ad-headlined "Avis is only No. 2 in rental cars. So why go with us?"-tacitly concedes that Hertz leads the field, and is greeted with scorn and derision in many quarters.

However, this and ensuing executions, from creative powerhouse Doyle Dane Bernbach, bear fruit: Avis' share of market increases by as much as 28%, and it is widely viewed as co-leader with Hertz in the category.

More importantly, this watershed campaign emboldens other marketers to attack often-larger rivals head-on and sometimes by name. See Apple's stellar "1984" spot (against "Big Brother" IBM). Avis and DDB changed the ground rules of competitive advertising.

41 Gallup applies research skills

A former journalism professor with a Ph.D. in psychology, George Gallup is usually associated with political polling, but he's also a pioneer in advertising research. He joins ad agency Young & Rubicam in 1932 as director of research after having built his name by developing reader recognition studies, based on in-person interviews, for newspapers to better understand what people read and why.

At Young & Rubicam, Mr. Gallup establishes the first copy research department . Its mission: to study the quality of the agency's print ads and find ways to improve them, investigating factors including placement and layout on an ad's efficacy. In addition to his ad work, Mr. Gallup conducts political polls to predict successful candidates.

In 1939, while still working at the agency, Mr. Gallup opens Audience Research Institute led by David Ogilvy (who would go on to found Ogilvy & Mather); it investigates and tracks filmgoers' preferences and the effect of film advertising.

Mr. Gallup leaves Y&R in 1947 to focus full time on advertising research and political polling. He starts two companies, American Institute of Public Opinion, which later becomes the Gallup Organization, and Gallup & Robinson.

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