wiser today

A man should never be ashamed to own that he is wrong, which is but saying in other words that he is wiser today than he was yesterday.

Martin Mayer

Madison Avenue, USA

Every year tens of thousands of women write their personal problems to friendly Betty Crocker, the leading General Mills brand name, and it cannot be argued that these women are motivated by any logical process (indeed, it is reasonable to assume that they are incapable of logical processes). Nevertheless, somewhere inside their skulls they know they have been told by an ad that Betty is an understanding person. Though the final effect occurs on a semiconscious level, it originates in a perfectly conscious suggestion.

To Norman B. Norman of Norman, Craig & Kummel such conscious suggestions are usually a waste of the advertiser's time and money; what is meaningful to Norman is the unconscious suggestion. 'Why does a man use a cologne? To be sexy, of course. Sportsman toiletries came to us, they were using fishing rods in their ads to show they appealed to the outdoor type. What good is that? That girl we gave them has been one of the highest rating ads since it first appeared. Take Veto deodorant. Of course it should stop perspiration, people expect a deodorant to stop perspiration, the way they expect bread to be fresh. Why advertise what everybody expects?' We gave them a slogan with empathy—'Because You Are the Very Air He Breathes.' That gets at the heart of the matter.'

A high-voltage salesman ('the perfect huckster,' says the head of an unfriendly rival agency), Norman is a very tall man with high cheekbones and deep-set brown eyes under thick brown hair. He speaks with a deep, loud voice which on dry days may be audible in the apse of St Patrick's Cathedral, across the street twenty-one stories down from his office window. A social psychologist by academic training, he entered advertising on the research end with the Milton Biow Company in 1934, and moved on to William Weintraub as an account executive. He was senior vice-president of the agency, responsible for the Revlon, Maidenform, and Ronson accounts, when he and Eugene Kummel and David Kaplan bought out Weintraub in the fall of 1954. One of their first steps was to lure Walter Craig, a broadcasting expert, away from his job as advertising manager of Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (Serutan, Geritol), and into a titular position in the agency, which now bills about $30 million a year. Weintraub continues as chairman of the board although he is no longer a principal owner of the agency.

Shortly after Norman took over, the agency found the word for its approach to the problems of advertising: 'Empathy.' Norman hopes that his agency's ads will involve customers with the advertised products at the deepest levels of their being, by expressing the real reasons why people buy these products. Since his orientation is Freudian, and a large part of his agency's business has been in cosmetics and lingerie, these real reasons are often sexual, which means that the ads can do no more than suggest them—although the photographs for Veto deodorant, with the girl stretched on the leopard-skin rug and the man's shoulder intruding, are as close to the literal as the law allows. In one of the great new-business coups of 1957, Norman's partner Gene Kummel won the Pabst account ($7 million worth) with a 'motivationally researched' campaign ('Pabst Makes It Perfect'), stressing what the motivational researchers like to call the leisure-time significance of beer drinking.

The Maidenform Brassiere ads are, of course, the classic example of the philosophy. Late in 1956 the Leo Burnett agency threw a few thousand dollars into what it called 'wastebasket research' to find out which ads housewives liked, and the Maidenform ad ran third in a group of three fashion advertisements. '"It goes too far," the ladies kept saying,' Burnett's A.F.H. Armstrong reported to a 4As meeting. '"It combines dress and undress. She would be decenter if she were entirely in her underwear."' Kay Daly, a svelte, nervous, immaculately turned out blonde who is Norman's fashion director and one of the agency's two copy chiefs, was delighted with the results of the Burnett tests. 'Housewives,' she said, 'should think those ads are shocking. That's the point.'