Rewind: Before Ray-Ban Ruled, the Question Was Who's Behind Those Foster Grants

To Kick Off Summer, We Revisit a Classic King of the Shades

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Vintage Ad Age review of Foster Grant Campaign
Vintage Ad Age review of Foster Grant Campaign

As summer kicks in, it's the perfect time to dig through our archives to see how that ultimate seasonal accessory, a pair of sunglasses, was pimped back in the day.

While Ray-Ban may be today's brand synonym for shades, having seen a surge of popularity for its retro cool and notable advertising, we found that back in the day, there was one sunglasses king, and his name was Foster Grant.

The eyewear brand, launched on the Atlantic City boardwalk in 1929 by Sam Foster, celebrates its 85th anniversary this year. In 1965, it debuted what would eventually become an advertising sensation, the "Who's Behind those Foster Grants?" campaign. Created out of Geer, Dubois New York and led by marketing director Mauri Edwards, it ranked 66th on Ad Age's list of Campaigns of the 20th Century and became famous for starring the famous.

The effort marked the brand's shift from radio to print ads, the first of which featured film stars Peter Sellers, Carroll Baker, Louis Jordan and Claudia Cardinale. Each ad include a celeb in six poses, alongside cheeky copy promoting the mystery and intrigue imparted by the shades. For example, a caption on the Baker ad read, "Do you honestly mean to suggest that if I'd worn one with a top, those poor men wouldn't have drowned?"

The campaign eventually expanded to TV and added more stars, including Jason Robards, Vanessa Redgrave, Mia Farrow, Woody Allen, Leslie Caron, Jill St. John, Robert Goulet and Anthony Quinn. Cindy Williams, aka Shirley Feeney of "Laverne and Shirley" fame, also appeared in a brand film in the early 1970s.

The campaign eventually went on to position the "everyman" consumer as the star behind the Foster Grants, as in this 1978 commercial, "Isn't that You Behind those Foster Grants?"

YouTube also turned up this interesting specimen, from an unknown date, which moved on from the famous tag to an approach that was a lot more, well, Devo.

An Ad Age item on a Foster Grant ad starring Cindy Crawford
An Ad Age item on a Foster Grant ad starring Cindy Crawford

In later years, Foster Grant's ads continued to feature celebrities. In 1999, the brand revived its famous tag for its 70th anniversary, in ads starring supermodel Cindy Crawford.

Raquel Welch was another actress who appeared in the brand's classic print campaign.

Years later, she returned in a TV commercial directed by Bob Giraldi. This time, however, the sexy superstar was pushing something a little different -- the eyewear brand's reading glasses.

For more classic Foster Grant ads, check out the brand's vintage ad Pinterest board, launched in celebration of its 85th annivesary.

Contributing: Michelle Dopp

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