Mary Wells Lawrence here provides excerpts from the book about specific ad campaigns, along with the commercials that the campaigns generated. Scroll down there screen to find video of the Braniff jet in full color with a Mariachi band playing on the wing and the "air strip" (Braniff International), a lemon grove with the classic line "I picked a lemon in the garden of love" (Love's Lemon Cleanser), and a Broadway stars at night (the I LOVE NEW YORK campaign)...
Braniff International -- #1
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Braniff International -- #2
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And a handsome prince changed my life. Bob Six and Harding
Lawrence came to see us about Continental Airlines. Bob Six was
the chairman, he looked like a tall, black-haired, grinning
pirate. Harding was the president, and he looked as if central
casting had sent him over to play the president of an airline.
It was not exactly love at first sight when Harding and I met,
although it was one of those meetings when you look into another
person's eyes and, unexpectedly, feel something you would rather
not feel right at that moment, so you look away, steel your mind
to forget it, and then look back coolly--but you don't forget. I
had read about him, admiring stories, the press liked him.
Continental was considered a smart, profitable, forward-thinking
airline in the sixties. It was giving fits to its larger
competitors, its Chicago-Los Angeles run made the competition
look shabby and it had a reputation for understanding what made
the business flier tick. Harding was given much of the credit
and there were rumors in all the papers that other airlines were
trying to kidnap him.
They came to see us looking for something special to help them launch the supersonics they had ordered. Many airlines were placing orders for supersonics. The Concorde was a thrilling idea; getting to your destination faster seemed like something that would naturally happen in the airline industry. Bob and Harding wanted to promote supersonic technology ahead of the arrival of the planes to stir up excitement for them and to rub that sophisticated imagery onto Continental's regular fleet. Together, the two men had enough charisma to shatter glass and enough energy to accomplish anything they set out to do, they knew their industry as if they had been the authors. I could imagine the effect they had on their competition. They stirred us up, too, and we agreed to fly to their offices in Los Angeles to learn more.
Bob Six was married to Audrey Meadows, who played the role of Alice in
Jackie Gleason's Honeymooners series; earlier he had been married to
Ethel Merman. He was the kind of man who looked at life as a superlative
meal and could digest anything, he would never need Alka-Seltzer. I knew
nothing about Harding Lawrence's personal life. When we made our trip to
Continental in Los Angeles I learned a lot about supersonics but nothing
much about him; he seemed distracted. At lunch he murmured, "Something
has come up that may interest you. I'll call you about it as soon as I
know more." When he called he told me that Troy Post and his insurance
group had bought controlling interest in Braniff Airways, an airline
based in Dallas. Troy wanted Harding to turn that small airline into an
important carrier with a new fleet of jets and an ambitious program.
Harding said that he had been receiving offers to run other airlines but
the opportunity at Braniff was such a rare and challenging one he
couldn't refuse it. He planned to resign from Continental and join
Braniff in the spring.
"I want to hire you people at Tinker to help me reintroduce Braniff to America. Actually, I want you to introduce Braniff to the world. You'll need to make a presentation to the executive group I'm going to hire," he said. "Listen, Mary, I need a very big idea for this airline, something so big it will make Braniff important news, overnight. I'm going to buy a large fleet of jets and they'll cost plenty. Braniff has a great route structure, you'll be amazed at the routes it's got, but the airline is virtually unknown, we have to become hot news from coast to coast. I don't want to fly a lot of empty seats around. You people will have to play a big role in this makeover. It's going to take me a while to hire everybody I'll need and I don't have time to wait. I want to turn the airline inside out and make it the best in the industry. What do you think? Can you help me do that?"
So even before we were officially hired to work for Braniff, Jack and Stew and I started to visit airports in New York, Washington, Chicago, Denver, Dallas and other cities on Braniff's system. We hiked through miles of terminals, I was getting claustrophobic in them, depressed. Then one morning, standing by a check-in gate in Chicago, I turned around and I saw a jail, the army, a prison camp, a ghastly desert and a lot of grey people. I'm having a nightmare, I thought, but it was just the terminal. Airlines had developed out of the military and modern marketing hadn't discovered them yet. Planes were metallic or white with a stripe painted down the middle to make them look as if they could get up and fly. The terminals were greige. They had off-white walls, cheap stone or linoleum floors, grey metal benches, there were tacky signs stuck onto walls any place at all. Even the doors to the first-class clubs were hidden behind stairways, those doors never had a frame, they looked like cupboard doors for mops. Stewardesses, as they were called, were dressed to look like nurses or like pilots who could fly the planes in case the real pilot had a heart attack. There were no interesting ideas, no place for your eyes to rest, nothing smart anywhere.
And there was no color. This was the sixties, mind you, when color was a hot marketing tool. I started talking about color to Jack and everybody at Tinker and then to Harding when he would call. He liked thinking about color; he reminded me that Braniff would be flying to places associated with brilliant color, Mexico and South America.
I saw the opportunity in color the way Flo Ziegfeld must have seen an empty stage. I saw Braniff in a wash of beautiful color. I tore up a hundred magazines collecting pictures of automobiles in color, colorful interiors, colorful clothes. Jack and Stew began exploring ways to make the planes colorful. Jo Hughes, the fashion expert at Bergdorf Goodman, set up a meeting for me with Emilio Pucci, who stood for color in women's clothes more than anyone else in the world. He and I met, he understood me before I opened my mouth. Emilio was phenomenally prescient and I got a clue to his energy at that meeting. He seemed to me to be on the ceiling most of the time, although I knew that was not possible; still, in the months to come he often seemed to me to be on the ceiling. But then we were doing everything possible to turn Braniff upside down. We searched for Alexander Girard, the designer of La Fonda del Sol, a restaurant in the Time-Life Building where my mother and I used to take my daughters. It was a high-octane color montage of Mexican and modern, he worked with Herman Miller designers and was a colleague of Ray and Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen, the people who had created my wedding furniture. He lived in New Mexico and Stew and I flew out to see him in his vivid New Mexican house with its art gallery, a riot of folk art. We saw a thousand ideas for Braniff's terminals, check-in counters and clubs in his house and he had a thousand more when we signed him on as the project designer. I thought it was a good omen when he said he had been brought up in Florence and knew Emilio; it all came together as if preordained.
Jack sketched possible ways to give the planes color. We spread them out over the floor of the reception room and walked around them for a few days, just feeling them. There was something very right but also very wrong about each design. Stew simplified one design until the plane was basically one color, green. I asked him to make the same design in different colors because I didn't like green. We walked around those different colors for a few days and we sketched airport fields filled with all-green or all-blue planes. Then I asked him to do one with all different-colored planes. When that sketch hit the floor of the reception room it was a thunderbolt, there wasn't a doubt in my mind or Stew's or Jack's, the sketch of the solid-colored planes in seven different colors was the hit show. A field of planes that were all the same color looked ho-hum. Seven colors looked like a big idea and wow and friendly and it would be big news. People would go out of their way to see them.
Before we made a full-scale presentation of our color program to the new Braniff executives, I wanted to give Harding a preview of the idea of planes in seven different colors. He never stopped telling me that he wanted an idea so big it would fill up his new jets overnight because, as he said a few hundred times, "an empty seat from Dallas to New York is revenue lost forever." When he studied the sketches of his planes in seven different solid colors he was quiet for a minute. I don't think I breathed. Then he laughed. He said, and I will never ever forget it, "That will do it!" That had to be the moment I fell in love with him.
I stood at the door to his office with the sketches packed up, ready to leave for the airport. I knew I looked perfectly calm, he told me later I was discouragingly professional, but I was keeping a lid on emotions that seemed extremely dangerous to me. I felt powerful undercurrents zinging back and forth between us that could mess up my life, his life, a lot of lives. Neither of us had marriages that could last through any stress, mine was falling apart hour by hour, there was a red light blinking in my mind, I didn't want trouble, I wanted to build the best advertising agency in the world, I didn't have time for life-altering love, when I looked at him to say goodbye he was looking away, talking to someone on the phone. I ran.
Alexander Girard created the final design for the solid-colored planes and their interiors. He designed the terminal waiting areas and the check-in accessories, then he and, later, Phil George designed Braniff club rooms, filling them with sunshine colors and Mexican art. City by city Braniff became the beautiful one, and for a little while, before all the airlines in the world got the picture and redesigned themselves, Braniff made most other airlines look sad.
Emilio Pucci's mind raced at dangerous speeds and we were always chasing after him to slow him down. Somehow he got the idea that Braniff routes always took people from cold places to warm places. He designed outfits for the stewardesses--who had become "hostesses"--that allowed them to take off a little bit of their chic uniforms one piece at a time as Braniff planes flew to warm destinations. We called this antic process "The Air Strip" and made a commercial of it that shocked a few people, but when we ran it on the Super Bowl it was a sensational hit. After the Super Bowl everyone knew that Emilio Pucci had made the Braniff hostesses the most exciting ones in the world and businessmen went out of their way to fly Braniff to see them. Emilio thought women were delicious creatures and that he was freeing the Braniff hostesses from looking like jailers. He even made teeny-weeny bikinis for them, an inch of cloth, and although they did not wear them on the planes, Emilio saw to it the bikinis were photographed so often for the press that the business community expected to see hostesses in them on the planes and was disappointed--but amused. It was wonderful to watch Braniff's hostesses feel so beautiful and begin to walk like models, one foot in front of the other, tra la la, on the planes.
We thought we should test one or two of the colors we were planning to paint the planes, so we painted a grounded DC-6, an old cargo plane that looked as if it was sitting down and couldn't possibly get up, it was dented all over, it looked like it had pimples, and it was turning into tin. Braniff painted it yellow on one side and orange on the other out on the field at the Braniff base. Jack and I flew to Dallas to join Harding, Ed Acker, Tom King, Glenn Geddis and Jere Cox to take a look. It was a scorching Texas day. We drove out onto the field in a large black car, we were all in dark suits, we got out of the car and walked around the half yellow, half orange plane meditating on it as if we were in Mecca. Back at the base hundreds of workers grouped at the windows and doors to watch us. The word was that we planned to paint every plane in the fleet half yellow and half orange. The faces of the men at those windows showed what they thought of that idea.
When I saw that plane painted yellow and orange I felt a sharp stab of panic. "Well," I consoled myself, "we can paint them all beige." But Harding was cool, Ed gave the plane a sympathetic little pat, Jere and Tom didn't even blink, Glenn smiled beatifically, Jack puffed his pipe--he said later he would have given anything to disappear into thin air, he didn't know what to think. We got back into the black car, no one said a word, we drove back to the base, had a coffee and planned the painting of the fleet.
The first jet, which was a very different animal than that old DC-6 cargo plane, was painted a stunning cobalt blue. It looked like a fast blue arrow, like a rocket to Mars, it was the most glamorous plane anyone had ever seen. I got up at dawn to see it. There it was, all by itself at the terminal, standing in a Dallas drizzle with a grey sky that turned its cobalt blue paint into a thrilling high-tech lavender. I watched as all the early-morning businessmen shuffled out to the gate clutching their Styrofoam cups of coffee. I expected at least a couple of expressions of surprise, confusion or, who knows, even outrage from those dismal early travelers, but one by one they climbed the plane's steps and not one of them even noticed that their plane was purple. I went back to bed secure that even the orange plane would not cause a riot.
America cheered. Braniff held a press conference on the base when the first five 707s were painted blue, green, yellow, red and a shimmering turquoise. Press arrived from all over the world to see the planes stage a "fly-by," each plane flew very low and slow and close to the grandstands in smart formation. The French, English, Italian, Greek and Chinese reporters stood up and yelled their heads off. I can't imagine what it would take to get 300 reporters and photographers from around the world to yell their heads off today.
"The advertising has to live up to the planes," I told Charlie Moss, who was chosen to be the writer for Braniff. "Go ahead, be as sensational as you've always wanted to be," I said. I should have kept my mouth shut. Charlie was so impressed with the painted planes, the Pucci hostesses, the sexy Air Strip, Alexander Girard's interiors and clubs and dishes--it was too much for him, he got writer's block. Every day I would visit him and his art director, Phil Parker, in their big empty room to see what advertising was coming forth. Nothing. I tried exciting them. I tried threatening them. I tried love, hypnotism, charades. Charlie turned blue. Phil, who lived in a fedora and was so talented he could always make an ad look better than it was, became bleary and vacant and he couldn't talk, he couldn't utter a syllable and he began drinking martinis at lunch. "What's the matter with you?" I asked them. "There's nothing to say!" Charlie cried. "You've lost your mind!" I told him and he agreed with me. I walked over to their big wastebasket, "What's this?" I asked, pulling out the most wonderful ad for Braniff I could imagine. Phil had drawn a big orange plane across two pages. On one of the wings he had put the entire Braniff crew in their Pucci uniforms, Alexander Girard's multicolored seats and a ten-piece Mexican band. Charlie had written the headline "The end of the plain plane. We don't get you there any faster. It just seems that way."
It was the end of the plain plane. Airline advertising and marketing and design would never ever be the same. There were groans from other airlines. They complained that the paint made the planes heavy--every airline that told that silly story is now flying fleets of painted planes. Paint gives a plane a smoother surface that makes up in speed for the slight difference in weight but, more important, it is a lot easier to steam-clean a painted plane with detergent than it is to clean metal surfaces with machine polishers. As time is money in the airline industry, paint wins the prize.
I LOVE NEW YORK
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Charlie and Stan created an "I Love New York" campaign starring Broadway. Traditionally, Broadway shows were advertised in a representational style as you would see them in a performance from somewhere in the audience. Stan wanted to do something really new, and he thought of directing the stars of the shows in a presentational style, they would present themselves to you while singing the "I Love New York" anthem. The presentational style would create an exultant connection between the Broadway stars and you, the television viewer, that would not only make you feel you absolutely had to see those shows but also remind you that you loved New York.
Jerry Schoenfeld, the head of the Shubert Theatre Organization, and Jimmy Nederlander, the two czars of Broadway, understood instantly what those commercials would do for ticket sales, but when we held a meeting with the producers of the shows themselves, there was only silence and suspicion in the room. "Um . . . what order do you plan to present the shows in--who comes first in the commercial?" asked the man from Annie. "Well," Stan said, "that depends on the footage, we want the commercial to ebb and flow, you know, maybe it starts with A Chorus Line and then--" "Wait a minute!" said the man from Annie. "You mean Chorus Line would come before Annie? Why would Chorus Line come before Annie?" He was outraged. If you looked around that table you didn't see one expression of joy or gratitude for what the commercials would do to sell tickets to all those shows. There was only sour suspicion about which show would appear first in each commercial. Finally Jerry Schoenfeld said, "Look, guys, this is going to be fantastic. We've never had anything this big to sell tickets for us!" and slowly, cooperation spread through the room. There was only one holdout, The King and I. Yul Brynner didn't want to bother with the commercials, he didn't want to take the time. Harvey Sabinson, the executive director of the League of New York Theatres and Producers, called him and said, "Listen, Yul, every other show is going to be in the campaign. You are the only one who is not going to be in a spot. Think about how that is going to look to the public. You better change your mind." And he did.
The first commercial we made ended with Frank Langella as Dracula. Swirling in his Dracula cape he looks into your eyes and says thrillingly, "I love New York--especially in the evening." Frank wanted to say the word "night" instead of "evening," he wanted to say "especially at night." But Charlie and Stan thought the word "night" in that commercial would be ghoulish, whereas the word "evening" was a glamorous word and less scary for Dracula to say on television. "We don't want to scare little kids," Charlie said. Finally Frank agreed. But he was uneasy. The day of the Dracula shoot New York had one of its big blizzards, all the limousines for the performers broke down and Volkswagen buses were sent out to pick them up. Stan set up a fog machine to make the snow appear moodier, "like Venice in winter when the vampires are out," he said. When Frank Langella appeared in his Dracula makeup and his cape he was a very imposing figure and people backed away from him nervously. Just before they shot the scene he grabbed Stan's arm and whispered to him, "Don't hurt me." Stan realized that Frank was a serious actor, an artist who did not appear in commercials, and suddenly there he was in a Dracula cape with a fog machine in the middle of a blizzard terrified that he was going to look ridiculous in a television commercial. Later, we staged a screening for all the actors so they could see the commercials ahead of everyone else. They came up to the agency in droves to see themselves. When Frank appeared, he rolled his eyes at Stan, but he was delighted with his bit in the commercial and sent a charming note.
When we were certain the commercials would be a success we suggested that the state get Bobby Zarem, an expert public-relations man, for the campaign. Bobby arranged to launch the commercials at the Tavern on the Green and followed that with a midnight launch at Studio 54. For reasons none of us can fathom he is another one who claims to have created the line "I Love New York." I don't know what to say to such poor souls except "Get a life." The governor, Mayor Ed Koch and all the other political, financial and social stars of New York were at one launch or the other. The din at the first launch was deafening until the first commercial appeared, then the crowd became mesmerized and silent. Almost everyone in New York, let alone at the Tavern on the Green, had a vested interest in the advertising by that time. Fortunately, it was a wild and wonderful hit. Wells Rich Greene had experienced its share of heartfelt applause for campaigns but nothing like the reaction to those first "I Love New York" commercials, because they mattered so much to so many people. At that time in New York, it was impossible not to love commercials that made you love New York again.
The campaign continued for years. Almost every major Broadway production appeared in it. Do you remember the commercial that had Sandy Duncan flying over the Brooklyn Bridge? Steve Horne directed that one and Tom Heck and Marcia Grace produced it for Wells Rich Greene. All of the productions were headaches, scheduling nightmares, backbreaking in detail. The account was blessed with a wiz of an account supervisor, Jane Maas, who wrote a book about those magic days. By the time we reached the second stage of the campaign, with commercials that featured stars of not only the stage but also Hollywood, the Metropolitan Opera and even politics--stars like Beverly Sills, Frank Sinatra, Gregory Peck, Pearl Bailey, Carol Channing and Henry Kissinger--we had the big-time help of Phyllis Wagner, Bob Wagner's wife, who was a PR expert. I hired Phyllis in one of those moments of pure prescience. I hired her because she is smart and I had a vague notion that she could introduce us to people we might otherwise never know or even think to know. I thought she would stir something up. She did all those things, but she also talked Frank Sinatra into doing a New York State commercial and kept him drinking and eating and happy at "21" until almost midnight one night so that Stan could set up a late shot.
Frank, who would be surrounded by beautiful girls in his commercial, was to say, "I love New York because it's open all night." Setting up took longer than expected, because word got out about the shooting, thousands of fans appeared and had to be controlled. Finally, Frank drove up in a sheriff's car with armed guards. He was a little bit huffy by then and not exactly sober. The fans went crazy at the sight of him. Stan said, "Mr. Sinatra, the girls are going to dance around you. Be careful that you don't bang into them when you say your line." "Fine," said Frank. "One take, that's all you'll need, one take!" He'd been waiting for hours to say one line and he was getting impatient. So they started filming, he said the line and banged right into the girls. "OK," he said, "that's it. Goodbye." Stan stopped him. "Mr. Sinatra, we have to shoot it again. You banged into the girls." "No. No more." He was getting testy. Stan gave a secret sign to the prettiest of the girls, who went up to Frank and said, "Oh, please, Frank, my mother will be watching. I told her I was making this shot with you and she is so thrilled." "OK," said Frank. "I'll do it for you. For you and your mother!" (Frank loved mothers, he adored mine--he was always trying to fix her up with George Burns. "How's your cooking? George wants a good cook," he would say to my mother.) He then said the line perfectly: "I love New York because it's open all night. All night!" He added a second "all night" and he came off as a pussycat in the commercial. The instant he finished, the heavens roared, thunder and lightning appeared out of nowhere and rain flooded the set. Frank called Stan into his car and told him that throughout his entire career he had had near-misses with thunderous downpours happening the minute after he finished his performances. "I take it personally," he said, looking up into the heavens.
The stars were as cooperative as one expects great stars to be. Gregory Peck, Stan's particular favorite, was filmed on the roof of the Rainbow Room. He told Stan not to worry that the shoot was going late into a bitter-cold night. "I've got my long johns on, partner," he said in a western-movie drawl. "You keep shootin' and I'll keep actin'."
Henry Kissinger, when asked by the press why he made a commercial for New York State, said, "Because Phyllis Wagner told me to."
The "I Love New York" campaign moved people to believe in New York again. Optimism grew and businesses thought twice about leaving New York, very few ever did, and the state's economic health began to improve.
LOVE'S FRESH LEMON CLEANSER
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Until our "Love" campaign, Revlon's Fire & Ice promotion had set the record for an expensive cosmetics launch. Bill McGivney and I planned the massive launch for Love because Peter intended to give the line to his loyal drugstores as a payback for making Contac a success. Department stores would want it but they wouldn't get it, at least not at first, so advertising would have to make up for Love's limited distribution. I didn't agree with Peter's strategy and fought to give Love to department stores, but you can't win them all so I insisted on a $10 million budget, a vast sum for a cosmetics introduction in the sixties, but I knew we needed to flood the country with enough advertising for Love cosmetics to induce young women to get up and go find them if they were only going to appear in better drugstores.
In all the world Bob Schulman was the last writer you would imagine for cosmetics advertising, at the time he was a brilliant, mischievous, overstimulated dropout. I would have preferred somebody like Warren Beatty but Charlie was sure that if we put Bob Schulman together with advertising's prince of beautiful art direction, Tom Heck, and prayed a little, we would get what we hoped for. Tom was out of a Fitzgerald novel, Bob played the bad boy. He would wander in at strange hours and drop crumpled pieces of paper on Tom's lap and mumble something like "I did this--not very good--you won't like it--it's really shit" and then disappear. Tom would howl. Charlie or I would soothe him. But the crumpled pieces of paper had the right words in the revolutionary but innocent and very young sixties. For Love's Basic Moisture, for example:
I'm a skin man myself.
I guess I come by it naturally.
My father's a dermatologist.
My mother's an exotic dancer.
I've been exposed to skin all my life.
Which brings me to my girl.
But her skin didn't come up to my high standards.
Then she started using something different on her skin.
She used so many things I didn't pay any notice.
But this stuff really worked.
It's done wonders for her whole mental outlook.
And our relationship has improved 100%.
One evening about nine, just as I was leaving, he handed me this poem for the Lemon fragrance commercial:
The first time I saw her
She was standing over there.
There was something different about her.
Something that made her
Stand out from the rest.
I thought at first it was her skin.
So soft, so fresh, so clean.
But there was more.
As I stood next to her
I detected the subtle odor of lemon.
I became obsessed with lemons.
I developed an insatiable thirst for lemonade.
At night I dreamed of lemon groves.
Of all the women I have ever known
I chose her,
I picked a lemon in the garden of love.
We set these Schulmanesques against Donovan's song "Wear Your Love Like Heaven." In only three months we were able to go to Smith Kline & French with a position, a plan, a budget, products, packages and merchandising units plus a complete television and print media schedule. Smith Kline & French approved our ambitious program, we had a public-relations launch in a hip young hangout in Paris, the basement of Le Drugstore, where we had Donovan and Liza Minnelli and Rˇgine perform for the glamorama of Paris, including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Six months later Love was viewed as the most successful cosmetics launch in history. Lemon sold out overnight, Peter's drugstores were delirious. Gallup & Robinson's "recall" measurement told us that more people recalled Love Cosmetics than the Statue of Liberty.