The Pop History Dig

“Gekko Nixes Greed”
FBI Ad: 2012

1987: This fake issue of Fortune magazine featuring Gordon Gekko on the cover as “The King of Wall Street” was used as a prop in the film “Wall Street.”
1987: This fake issue of Fortune magazine featuring Gordon Gekko on the cover as “The King of Wall Street” was used as a prop in the film “Wall Street.”
     Gordon Gekko, the fictional Wall Street character who Michael Douglas made famous with his “greed is good” speech in 1987’s Wall Street, is now working for the FBI.

     Gekko, or rather Douglas, is appearing in a public service announcement (PSA) for the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation that began airing in February 2012 to help fight securities fraud and insider trading on Wall Street.  Douglas, who brought believable form and swagger to Gekko with his 1987 “best actor” performance, appears in the PSA as himself, making clear that Gekko was a fictional character, but that the wheeling and dealing he did in the film were crimes.

     “I played a greedy corporate executive who cheated to profit while innocent investors lost their savings,” Douglas says in the ad, which also uses a clip of the Gekko greed speech at its beginning.  “The movie was fiction, but the problem is real,” says Douglas.  “Our economy is increasingly dependent on the success and integrity of the financial markets.  If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.”  As the PSA cuts to a screen with the FBI logo, Douglas continues speaking off camera:  “For more information on how you can help identify securities fraud, or to report insider training, contact your local FBI office.  Or submit a tip online at www.fbi.gov.”

2012: Michael Douglas appearing in FBI’s public service announcement.  Click on image to view on FBI site.
2012: Michael Douglas appearing in FBI’s public service announcement. Click on image to view on FBI site.
     Reportedly, Douglas was quite willing to do the one-minute spot for the FBI, which was shot in November 2011.  In fact, for some years after the Wall Street film had appeared, Douglas and the film’s producer, Oliver Stone, had been flabbergasted and frustrated by the reaction of some film goers who expressed admiration for the rapacious Gekko character – as some had even told Douglas they entered business or began Wall Street careers inspired by Gekko.  That is, they viewed Gekko as their model, and planned to emulate his values.  Yet the whole point of the Wall Street film had been to show how repugnant Gekko and his values were; that the “greed-is-good” mindset and behaviors such as asset stripping,  insider trading, defrauding investors, wrecking companies, and all the rest, were not to be emulated.  Rather, these were the very worst and most reckless kinds of business and investment activities – the kind, in fact, that helped bring America to its 2008 financial crisis.  One recent book at least, written by former Goldman Sachs trader, Anthony Scaramucci, tries to dispel some of this errant Gekko legacy and is titled, Goodbye Gordon Gekko: How To Find Your Fortune Without Losing Your Soul.

Michael Douglas, inhabiting the character of the ruthless  Gordon Gekko in Oliver Stone’s 1987 film “Wall Street.”
Michael Douglas, inhabiting the character of the ruthless Gordon Gekko in Oliver Stone’s 1987 film “Wall Street.”
     FBI Special Agent David Chaves supervises one of the FBI’s securities and commodities fraud units in New York that has been involved in an insider-trading initiative in which they teamed up with the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate the sources of inside tips and those profiting from them.  A five-year enforcement effort has resulted in criminal charges against more than 60 people.  But Chaves and his unit thought even more could be done.  And that’s when they went to Michael Douglas.  “We thought one of the most revered actors of our time would be a great voice for combating crime on Wall Street,” Chaves explained to Bloomberg/ Business Week.  They were also looking to raise the Bureau’s visibility.  “It’s important for us to have the F.B.I. brand out on Wall Street,” Chaves told the New York Times.  “The more people out there aware of the problem, the more opportunities we have to get tips,” said Richard T. Jacobs, another supervisory special agent at the F.B.I.

Anthony Scaramucci’s 2010 book, “Goodbye Gordon Gekko.”
Anthony Scaramucci’s 2010 book, “Goodbye Gordon Gekko.”
     Meanwhile, the PSA with “Mr Gekko” – which has aired on CNBC and Bloomberg Television – will be broadcast on other national cable television channels, especially those covering business news.  FBI spokesman Bill Carter said the PSA would be distributed to 15 cities — Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Newark, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington and New Haven, Connecticut — where there has been a proliferation of fraud cases or evidence of potential trouble.

     But the FBI-Douglas union in the current PSA campaign is also interesting as another example of the Washington-Hollywood axis at work, and how celebrity and celluloid characters are sometimes brought to bear on real world problems.

     For a longer story at this website on the history of the 1987 Wall Street film, the Gordon Gekko character, the film’s storyline,  film photos and trailer, as well as reactions to the film and other information, see “Wall Street’s Gekko, 1987-2010.”  Thanks for visiting. - Jack Doyle


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Date Posted:  29 February 2012
Last Update:  29 February 2012
Comments to: jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “Gekko Nixes Greed, FBI Ad: 2012,”
PopHistoryDig.com, February 29, 2012.

____________________________________


 


Sources, Links & Additional Information

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, “FBI Announces Public Service Announcement by Michael Douglas on Securities Fraud and Insider Trading,” New York, February 27, 2012.

FBI — Financial Fraud Public Service Announcement (video), February 2012.

Kevin Johnson, “Michael Douglas, aka Gordon Gekko, Helps FBI Fight Fraud, USA Today,February 27, 2012.

Patricia Hurtado, “Douglas’s Gordon Gekko Is FBI’s Latest Insider-Trading Crusader,” Bloomberg Business Week, Tuesday, February 28, 2012.

“New Role For Michael Douglas…,” CBS This Morning, February 28, 2012

Ben Protess and Azam Ahmed, “Michael Douglas Tackles Greed for F.B.I.,” Deal Book, New York Times, February 27, 2012.




“Gifford For Luckies”
1961-1962

Frank Gifford, football star for the New York Giants, appeared in Lucky Strike cigarette ads in the early 1960s, including this one, which appeared on the back cover of ‘The Saturday Evening Post’ magazine, November 10, 1962.
Frank Gifford, football star for the New York Giants, appeared in Lucky Strike cigarette ads in the early 1960s, including this one, which appeared on the back cover of ‘The Saturday Evening Post’ magazine, November 10, 1962.
     Frank Gifford first rose to fame in the 1950s and 1960s as a professional football player with the New York Giants.  Later, in a second career, he became famous again as a sports broadcaster.  He is shown at right in a 1962 magazine advertisement for Lucky Strike cigarettes.

     Born in Santa Monica, California in 1930, Gifford graduated from Bakersfield High School, became a Junior College All- American football player at Bakersfield College, then proceeded to the University of Southern California where he also became an All-American.  He entered the profes- sional ranks in 1952, joining the New York Giants, where he played his entire career.

     Gifford began his career with the Giants playing both offense and defense, a rarity at a time when platoon football had begun following World War II.  He made eight Pro Bowl appearances and had five trips to the NFL Championship Game.  Gifford’s biggest season may have been 1956, when he won the Most Valuable Player award of the NFL, and led the Giants to the NFL title over the Chicago Bears.  Gifford also played in the famous December 1958 championship game between the New York Giants and the Baltimore Colts, a game that many believe ushered in the modern era of big time, television-hyped, pro football.   Gifford, in fact, has co-written a recent book on that game, titled The Glory Game.

     In the early 1960s, however, Frank Gifford was a hot commodity, and his endorsement was sought for an array of products, cigarettes among them.  In the magazine ad above, Gifford is shown in a photo from his playing days and another at leisure off the field, lending his endorsement to American Tobacco Company’s Lucky Strike brand.  The caption beneath the football photograph of Gifford reads: “Frank Gifford in action in 1957.  The young New York Giants halfback was already a top star  — and a Lucky Strike smoker.”  The other photograph, with Gifford holding a cigarette while looking trough an opened book, says: “Frank Gifford today.  Now one of pro football’s all-time greats, Frank’s still a satisfied Lucky smoker.”  The wording at the bottom of the ad says:

“The taste of Luckies spoils you for other cigarettes.  ‘Taste is the reason I started smoking Luckies,’ says Frank, ‘and taste is the reason I’m still a Lucky man. ‘ How about you?  Get the taste you’ll stay with.  Get the fine tobacco-taste of Lucky Strike.”

Frank Gifford, former New York Giants football star, appears in early 1960s magazine ad for Lucky Strike cigarettes.
Frank Gifford, former New York Giants football star, appears in early 1960s magazine ad for Lucky Strike cigarettes.

“Taste Great”

         In another early 1960s ad for Lucky Strike, Gifford is shown relaxing in a home den type setting with his football trophies behind him, cigarette in hand, as he lends his name to the Lucky Strike brand.  The caption beneath his photo- graph reads:

     “Frank Gifford, former All-Pro halfback for the New York Football Giants, remembers more than fifteen yeas of great football.  A Lucky Strike smoker, Frank remembers how great his first Lucky tasted: ‘And Luckies still taste great,’ he says. ‘This one still delivers that full, rich tobacco taste.’  How about you?  Change to Luckies and get some taste for a change.”

     In addition to advertising for Lucky Strike cigarettes, Gifford, a popular sports figure in New York in the early 1960s, also did ads for other products including: Vitalis hair tonic, Jantzen swim wear, Dry Sack sherry, and Palmolive Rapid Shave.

In a 2013 interview by Mark Weinstein, Gifford was asked about his Lucky Strike cigarette ads. Here’s some of that exchange:

MW: “…And I’m wondering if, knowing what we now know about the adverse health effects of tobacco, you have any regrets about your association with Lucky Strike?”

FG: “I do, but only in the sense that when the Surgeon General’s report came out [January 1964], I very openly quit smoking. I quit the day the report came out. And that was the end of the advertising, too. I was making more doing that—potentially, anyway—than I was playing football. But that was the end of it. I said, ‘I’m not going to do it anymore.’ It’s been kind of lost in the pages of history, I guess, but that’s exactly what happened.”


Injury & Comeback

Frank Gifford (No. 16), New York Giants, running with ball against the Washington Redskins, Yankee Stadium, November 29, 1959.  Photo, Neil Leifer.
Frank Gifford (No. 16), New York Giants, running with ball against the Washington Redskins, Yankee Stadium, November 29, 1959. Photo, Neil Leifer.
     In a 1960 game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Gifford was hit very hard on a passing play by Eagles’ linebacker Chuck Bednarik, and was knocked out of the game.  Gifford suffered a severe neck injury, forcing him out of active play for 18 months — occurring in the prime of his career.  The injury led him to retire from football temporarily.  In 1962 Gifford returned to pro football and resumed playing for the Giants, this time as a flanking, wide receiver.  Gifford made an impressive come back, learning and excelling at the new position, becoming a star once again.  In fact, he was selected to the Pro Bowl as wide receiver in 1964.  At the end of that season, however, Gifford retired for good.

     In 12 seasons with the New York Giants, Gifford proved a versatile and valuable player.  As a running back, he had 3,609 rushing yards and 34 touchdowns in 840 carries.  As a receiver he had 367 receptions for 5,434 yards and 43 touchdowns.  Gifford was also a halfback who could throw, and completed 29 of the 63 passes he attempted for 823 yards and 14 touchdowns.  Gifford was also one of those rare players in the early modern era who played both offense and defense.  In fact, during his carreer, he had Pro Bowl selections at three different positions — defensive back, running back, and wide receiver.  Gifford was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on July 30, 1977, and in the year 2000, his New York Giants’ No. 16 playing numeral was formally retired.


L-to-R, Don Meredith, Howard Cosell and Frank Gifford, the broadcast team for ABC-TV’s “Monday Night Football,” 1972.
L-to-R, Don Meredith, Howard Cosell and Frank Gifford, the broadcast team for ABC-TV’s “Monday Night Football,” 1972.
Broadcast Booth

     After his playing days ended, Frank Gifford became a full-time sports broadcaster for NFL games on CBS radio and TV.  By 1971 he became a play-by-play announcer on ABC’s Monday Night Football with Howard Cosell and Don Meredith — Meredith a former Dallas Cowboy football star.  In 1995, Gifford was given the Pete Rozelle Award by the Pro Football Hall of Fame for his NFL television work.  Gifford remained at Monday Night Football until 1998, when he left the show.  He also appeared on other ABC sports programs, including Olympic Games coverage, ABC’s Wide World of Sports, various sports personality profiles.  He also appeared as a guest on non-sports TV shows from time to time, including ABC-TV’s Good Morning America, where he met his third wife, Kathie Lee, a popular TV host.  The two were married in 1986 and would have two children together.  Throughout the late 1980s and the 1990s, millions of morning-TV viewers who watched ABC’s Live with Regis and Kathie Lee would often hear Kathie Lee Gifford’s descriptions of life at home with her sportscaster husband and their two children.  Frank and Kathie Lee Gifford have also used their celebrity to raise money for charitable causes.

     See also at this website, “Celebrity Gifford,” a longer story on the football, broadcasting, and celebrity history of Frank Gifford. Other stories on celebrity advertising at this website include, for example: Dennis Hopper pitching retirement planning for Ameriprise Financial, Madonna in a 1989 Pepsi ad, and John Wayne in 1950s’ Camel cigarette ads. Thanks for visiting. – Jack Doyle

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Date Posted:  29 March 2010
Last Update:  5 January 2014
Comments to:  jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “Gifford For Luckies, 1961-1962,”
PopHistoryDig.com, March 29, 2010.

_______________________________________



Sources, Links & Additional Information

Frank Gifford football trading card from 1955 in protective case. Card was issued originally by Bowman Football Cards as #7 in a series. This card is graded and registered by PSA, Professional Sports Authenticator.  “EX-MT” means the card is in “excellent-to-mint” condition, followed by a numerical grade.
Frank Gifford football trading card from 1955 in protective case. Card was issued originally by Bowman Football Cards as #7 in a series. This card is graded and registered by PSA, Professional Sports Authenticator. “EX-MT” means the card is in “excellent-to-mint” condition, followed by a numerical grade.
“Frank Gifford in TV Series,” New York Times, Thursday, January 21, 1960, p. 63.

William R. Conklin, “Star Back Signed by Radio Station; Gifford Retires as Player but Giants Hope to Keep Him in Advisory Post,” New York Times, Friday, February 10, 1961.

Robert M. Lipsytet, “Gifford Returns as a Player; Giants’ Halfback, 31, Gives Up Duties as Broadcaster; Back Holds 3 Club Records,” New York Times, Tuesday, April 3, 1962, Sports, p. 48.

“Pro Football May Seem Tame to Giant’s Gifford After Thrill of Making TV Ads,” Advertising Age 1963; 34(25): 64

Mike Puma, “Gifford Was Star in Backfield, Booth,” Sport Century Biography, ESPN Classics, ESPN.com.

Mike Puma, “Versatile Gifford Led the Giants,” ESPN.com, Wednesday, November 19, 2003.

Richard W. Pollay, “Promises, Promises : Self-Regulation of U.S. Cigarette Broadcast Advertising in The 1960s,” Tobacco Control 1994; 3: 134-144.

“Frank Gifford,” Wikipedia.org

Paul Wilkes, “Frank Gifford Talks a Good Game These Days,” New York Times, Sunday, December 14, 1969, p. D-27.

M. Jocelyn Elders, Preventing Tobacco Use Among Young People: A Report of the Surgeon General, 1994, Washington, D.C., U.S. Government Printing Office, 314pp.

“Kathie Lee Gifford,” Wikipedia.org.

Mark Weinstein, “Frank Gifford: Icon” (Interview with Gifford ), BlueNatic, Tuesday, August 20, 2013.

“History of the Surgeon General’s Reports on Smoking and Health,” CDC.gov.



“Al Jolson & Luckies”
1928-1940s

Famous 1920s’ singer & film star, Al Jolson, in Lucky Strike cigarette ad.  Literary Digest, December 22, 1928.
Famous 1920s’ singer & film star, Al Jolson, in Lucky Strike cigarette ad. Literary Digest, December 22, 1928.
     In 1927, Al Jolson became famous as one of the first actors and singers to star in a talking motion picture — The Jazz Singer.  But Jolson was already a big star by this time.  In fact, by 1920, he was America’s highest paid entertainer, well known for his singing.  Between 1911 and 1928, Jolson had more than 80 hit records and had performed on more than a dozen national and international tours.  He often performed in blackface makeup — a theatrical style of that era — singing jazz, blues, and ragtime.  He also liked to have stage runways extend out into the audience, where he would roam at will, sometimes teasing and cajoling his fans, or stopping to sing a song to one person in particular.  Audiences loved his perfor- mances.

     But Jolson’s appearance in the first feature-length motion picture with synchro- nized sound and dialogue sent him to another level of stardom.  In The Jazz Singer, Jolson performed six songs produced by Warner Brothers with its Vitaphone sound-on-disc system.  The film’s release  — quite the event in its day — heralded the rise of the “talkies” and the end of the silent film era. 

Being the first popular performer to sing in a film with sound, Jolson became the equivalent of a today’s “rock star.”  In fact, some would later dub him the equal of Elvis Presley when it came to the popular jazz and blues styles of that era.  In any case, The Jazz Singer boosted Jolson’s career, sending him into more prosperous roles, and he would star in a series of successful musical films throughout the 1930s. 

With his celebrity at its peak, the economic powers of that day soon came knocking on Jolson’s door, beseeching him to endorse and promote their products.  And none of those who came calling was a bigger power than the American Tobacco Co., then one of the world’s largest companies and maker of numerous tobacco products, including Lucky Strike cigarettes.

The premiere of “The Jazz Singer” in New York at the Warners Theater, October 6, 1927, the first talking motion picture and quite the event in its day.
The premiere of “The Jazz Singer” in New York at the Warners Theater, October 6, 1927, the first talking motion picture and quite the event in its day.
     The American Tobacco Co. knew full well what it was doing with celebrity endorsers such as Al Jolson in the rising film industry.  The company, in fact, would become famous, in part, for its role in using all manner of the persuasive arts and beyond — including the hiring of advertising psychologists — in crafting its advertising and promotional strategies.  American Tobacco in the 1920s was run by George Washington Hill, the man who would lead the tobacco industry into the era of mass advertising.  Hill hired some of the leading lights of his day in advertising and public relations to help advance his plans — among them, A.D. Lasker, Edward Bernays, and Ivy Lee.  American Tobacco’s advertising and PR campaigns, for example, were among the first to target women as potential smokers.  “Together, Hill and Lasker are credited with starting more people on the smoking habit than anyone in history,” writes Milt Moskowitz in his 1980 book, Everybody’s Business.  “They also helped break the taboo against women smoking in public.”  But the film-star and Hollywood connection would become especially important to American Tobacco in all of its campaigns, and later, for other tobacco companies as well.  “The links between Hollywood and tobacco go back to the beginning of talking pictures,” says Stanton Glantz, co-author of the 2008 study, Signed, Sealed and Delivered: Big Tobacco in Hollywood, 1927-1951.  “It was a way to thoroughly embed tobacco use in the social fabric.”


“Precious Voice”

“The Tobacco Celebrities”

     This is one in a series of occasional articles that will focus on the history of popular celebrities from film, tele- vision, sports and other fields who have lent their names or voice, offered endorsing statements, or made person- al appearances in various forms of tobacco advertising and promotion.  Famous actors, sports stars and other notable personalities have been endors- ing tobacco products since the late 1800s.  One recent report published in the journal Tobacco Control, for example, notes that nearly 200 Hollywood stars from the 1930s and 1940s were contracted to tobacco companies for advertising.  And while the stigma associated with smoking and using other tobacco products has increased in recent years as medical research evidence linking disease to tobacco has become more widely understood, the promotion of tobacco products, while not as blatant and pervasive as it once was, continues to this day in a number of countries.  Not all celebrities, of course, have been involved in such endorsements, and some have worked for, or lent their names to, programs and organizations that help to prevent cigarette smoking or other tobacco-related public health problems.

     Beginning in the late ’20s, American Tobacco began a campaign to link smoking with sophistication, slimness, and “sonorous voices.”  Part of this campaign in 1927 was dubbed the “Precious Voice” campaign, which dovetailed nicely with the arrival of the both the talking motion picture and the rise of radio and its commercialization.  American Tobacco, in fact, spent tens of millions of dollars on radio programs that ran between 1928 and the mid-1950s; shows which also used the company’s celebrity tobacco ads.  But in the late 1920s, following the release of The Jazz Singer, as “talking pictures” became all the rage, American Tobacco sought actor endorsements for its cigarettes.  It also began actor and singer cigarette advertising that claimed Lucky Strike spared their throats and protected their voices.  And American Tobacco ads also used another tack in 1928 — this time featuring Lucky Strike cigarettes as an alternative to fattening sweets.  “Reach for a Lucky Instead of a Sweet” was the slogan that ran with this campaign in 1928-1929.  Al Jolson appeared in at least one of these ads  — as shown in the December 1928 ad at the top of this story.  That ad ran in popular magazines of the day.  Jolson is quoted in the ad’s headline saying: “I light up a Lucky and go light on the sweets.  That’s how I keep in good shape and always feel peppy.”  Part of the arrangement in such ads was also to have a tie-in with the film studio — in this case, for Jolson’s latest new film.  Near the Lucky Strike pack in the above ad, the text reads: “Al Jolson, as he appears in Warner Bros Vitaphone success, The Singing Fool.”


Feds Take Note

     In 1929, however, the federal government’s Federal Trade Commission (FTC) began to scrutinize cigarette ads and their testimonials by the famous personalities.  One of the campaigns the FTC went after was American Tobacco’s “Reach for a Lucky Instead of a Sweet” campaign, and the use of that slogan.  Not surprisingly, the U.S. candy industry had lobbied federal regulators to restrict American Tobacco’s use of this phrase and would also bring legal action against American Tobacco to change its ads.  But the FTC also looked at the testimonials used by celebrities in the American Tobacco ads, calling them misleading.  The FTC would specifically cite Jolson’s words in one endorsement where he is making several claims about the supposed benefits of smoking Luckies — similar to those used in first ad above.  In the advertising, Jolson is quoted as saying, in part:

“Talking pictures demand a very clear voice… Toasting kills off all the irritants, so my voice is as clear as a bell in every scene.  Folks, let me tell you, the good old flavor of Luckies is as sweet and soothing as the best “Mammy” song ever written… There’s one great thing about the toasted flavor…it surely satisfies the craving for sweets.  That’s how I always keep in good shape and always feel peppy.”

     The FTC also found that Jolson did not write the attributed lines himself or review it before its use, specifically citing a 1928 Lucky Strike Radio Hour broadcast of the message.  Instead, Warner Brothers’ advertising manager A. P. Waxman, signed a release on Warner Brothers letterhead for text similar to what was used on air, stating that he acted on Jolson’s behalf.  In November 1929, the FTC issued a cease and desist order against American Tobacco, prohibiting the use of testimonials unless written by the endorser, whose opinions were “genuine, authorised and unbiased”.  In addition, American Tobacco did not acknowledge publicly in its print ads or radio broadcasts that its advertising testimonials were bought or that an advertising agency drafted them.


By the late 1930s, American Tobacco was regularly using movie-star celebrities in its ads, such as Claudette Colbert, shown here, also noting her co-staring role in the upcoming film, “Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife,” by Paramount.
By the late 1930s, American Tobacco was regularly using movie-star celebrities in its ads, such as Claudette Colbert, shown here, also noting her co-staring role in the upcoming film, “Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife,” by Paramount.
Celebrity Ads

     American Tobacco revised the contractual language for its 1931 endorsement campaign to ensure control over the language and messaging of the testimonials, while still conforming to the FTC’s 1929 stipulations that endorsers supply the testimonial.  While actors offered their opinions and declared the number of years they smoked Lucky cigarettes, they permitted Lord & Thomas, the ad agency, to write the actual testimonial  — “phrased in such form as to make an effective message from the standpoint of truthfulness and advertising value.”  Actors also signed revised release statements that read: “No monetary or other consideration of any kind or character has been paid me or promised me for the above statement, by [American Tobacco’s agent], or by the manufacturers of Lucky Strike Cigarettes or otherwise.”  But the money was flowing to the studios, not the actors directly, a practice that would only grow in the decades ahead, as other tobacco companies began their campaigns.  The studios would soon see big gains from the cross promotion in these ads, as their stars and latest movies were being touted, so they were generally happy to deal with the tobacco companies.  According to the study, Signed, Sealed and Delivered: Big Tobacco in Hollywood, 1927-1951, the studios also negotiated the content of testimonials, insisted that the timing of the ads and radio appearances be coordinated with movie releases, and sometimes denied permission for deals that did not serve their interest.  But all in all, it was a good deal for the studios and the tobacco companies.

     The FTC, meanwhile, in its earlier investigation of the film-star tobacco ads, had also ordered American Tobacco to disclose payments made for actor testimonials used in its advertising.  However, by 1934, American Tobacco successfully removed this disclosure requirement, presumably through its lobbying of the agency. From the late 1930s through the 1940s, two thirds of the top 50 box office stars in Hollywood would endorse tobacco products in advertising.  Soon, the FTC’s attempt to clamp down on the relationship between big tobacco and its Hollywood helpers was largely circumvented.  Some internal film industry prohibitions on actor endorsements — briefly in effect in 1931 — would be bypassed as well.  By 1937 and 1938, American Tobacco was paying to have a long list of Hollywood stars to appear in its ads, including: Gary Cooper, Claudette Colbert, Joan Crawford, Henry Fonda, Bob Hope, Carole Lombard, Ray Milland, Robert Montgomery, Richard Powell, George Raft, Edward G. Robinson, Barbara Stanwyck, Gloria Swanson, Robert Taylor, Spencer Tracy, and Jane Wyatt.  The payments to stars ranged in value, in 2008 dollars, generally from $40,000 to $140,000 for each endorsement.  In all, American Tobacco payed out the 2008 equivalent of some $3.2 million for actor endorsements of Lucky Strike cigarettes in print ads and radio spots in 1937-38.  In fact, from the late 1930s through the 1940s, two thirds of the top 50 box office stars in Hollywood would endorse tobacco products in advertising.

By the late 1940s, Chesterfield cigarettes were the dominant brand being pitched by Hollywood celebs, here by Gary Cooper in 1948, also plugging his film, “Unconquered” by Parmount.
By the late 1940s, Chesterfield cigarettes were the dominant brand being pitched by Hollywood celebs, here by Gary Cooper in 1948, also plugging his film, “Unconquered” by Parmount.
     Nearly a decade later, in the early- and mid-1940s, the FTC once again turned its attention to investigating the advertising methods of American Tobacco and R. J. Reynolds for their Lucky and Camel film-star testimonials. As it did, another cigarette maker, Liggett & Myers, maker of the Chesterfield brand, took advantage of the FTC’s focus on those companies to launch its own Hollywood-celebrity ad campaign.  Liggett & Myers began a multi-year Hollywood campaign in print and on radio, spending the 2008 equivalent of $50.9 million in 1946 alone.  As a result, the Chesterfield cigarette brand gained endorsements from Hollywood stars who had formerly endorsed Lucky Strikes.  Among these new “Chesterfield celebrities” were: Barbara Stanwyck, Claudette Colbert, Gary Cooper, Bob Hope and Ray Milland from Paramount; Clark Gable at MGM; Fred MacMurray from Universal; and Joan Crawford at Warner Bros.  On the radio too, with its Chesterfield Supper Club, Liggett & Myers had testimonials from stars such as Barbara Stanwyck, Susan Hayward, Fred MacMurray, and Rosalind Russell.  And of course, the practice of celebrities endorsing tobacco products — celebrities from Hollywood, the sports world, and other fields — did not end in the 1940s, and in fact would expand in the decades ahead with the rise of the new medium, television.

     Stay tuned to the this website for more stories on the history of tobacco advertising by celebrities, and generally for stories on the history of advertising and its impact on modern culture. Thanks for visiting — and please consider supporting this website. Thank you. – Jack Doyle

Please Support
this Website

Donate Now

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Date Posted:  31 January 2010
Last Update:  8 June 2014
Comments to:  jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “Al Jolson & Luckies, 1928-1940s,”
PopHistoryDig.com, January 31, 2010.

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Sources, Links & Additional Information

Lucky Strike Radio
1928-1950s

     Between the late 1920s and mid-1950s, the American Tobacco Co. spent tens of millions of dollars on radio programs that ran between 1928 and the mid-1950s; shows which also used the company’s celebrity tobacco ads.  Among these programs were: The Lucky Strike Dance Orchestra, also known as the Lucky Strike Dance Hour, which aired on NBC radio from 1928 to 1931; Your Hit Parade, which ran on NBC and CBS from 1935 to 1955; Your Hollywood Parade, an hour long weekly program broadcast from the Warner Brothers studio Hollywood lot; and The Jack Benny Program, which ran from the mid-1940s to the mid-1950s.  Of the program Your Holly- wood Parade, broadcast from the Warner Brothers studio lot, the authors of Signed, Sealed and Delivered: Big Tobacco in Hollywood, 1927-1951, would write: “The radio show re- inforced the impression, also encour- aged by the print campaign, that everyone in Hollywood smoked Lucky Strike…”  In fact, on that radio program in the early 1940s, Lucky Strike “impressions” — phrases, jingles or brand name mentions of one kind or another — were being heard by listeners nearly every 30 seconds.

K.L Lum, J.R Polansky, R.K. Jackler, and S.A. Glantz, “Signed, Sealed and Delivered: ‘Big Tobacco’ in Hollywood, 1927-1951,” Tobacco Control Journal, September 25, 2008.

Moirafinnie, “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes,” MovieMor- locks.com, May 13, 2009.

“Al Jolson,” Wikipedia.org.

Milton Moskowitz, Michael Katz and Robert Levering, “Cigarette Makers,” Everybody’s Business: The Irreverent Guide to Corporate America, Harper & Row, 1980, pp. 765-769.

John Stauber & Sheldon Rampton, “The Art of the Hustle…,” and “Smokers’ Hacks,” in Toxic Sludge is Good For You: Lies, Damn Lies and The Public Relations Industry, Common Courage Press, Monroe, Maine, 1995, pp. 17-32.

AFP- Paris, “Tobacco Giants Paid Millions to Stars in Hollywood’s ‘Golden Age’,” September 24, 2008.

Ewen Callaway, “Hollywood Cut Secret Deals to Promote Smoking,” NewScientist.com, September 25, 2008.

“Tobacco Companies Paid Movie Stars Millions in Celebrity Endorsement Deals,” EScienceNews.com, Thursday, September 25, 2008

Tracie White, “Tobacco-Movie Industry Financial Ties Traced to Hollywood’s Early Years in Stanford/UCSF Study,” Stanford.edu, September 24, 2008.

“Not a Cough in a Carload,” Extensive On-Line Exhibit of Tobacco Ads, Lane Medical Library & Knowledge Management Center, Stanford.edu.

A. M. Brandt, The Cigarette Century: The Rise, Fall, and Deadly Persistence of the Product That Defined America., Basic Books, 2007.

R. Kluger, Ashes to Ashes: America’s Hundred-Year War, the Public Health, and the Unabashed Triumph of Philip Morris, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1996.

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“Wayne For Camels”
1950s

John Wayne, a highly-popular Hollywood film star, appears in a 1950 magazine ad for Camel cigarettes.
John Wayne, a highly-popular Hollywood film star, appears in a 1950 magazine ad for Camel cigarettes.
     John Wayne, the famous Hollywood actor of the 1950s, is shown at right in a 1950 magazine ad for Camel cigarettes.  The Camel cigarette brand, introduced by the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco  Co. in 1913, had become the top selling cigarette in the U.S. by the 1950s, thanks in part to the company’s heavy advertising.  John Wayne had been a chain-smoker since young adulthood, so it was not out of character for him, or surprising for those times, to see him in a cigarette ad.  Numerous other celebrities — and athletes as well — also did such ads in those days.  Edward R. Murrow, for example, a popular TV news broadcaster, smoked up to four packs of Camels per day.  Cigarettes with Murrow almost seemed to serve as stage prop, becoming part of his TV image, as he was often photographed with a cigarette or seen smoking during his TV shows, such as Person to Person.

     John Wayne, by the time he appeared in the 1950 print ad at right, was at the peak of his movie career.  Wayne had already achieved stardom in motion pictures by the early 1940s, and by the end of the decade was one of Hollywood’s top ten box office attractions.  During the latter half of the 1940s Wayne had starred in notable westerns and other films including: Fort Apache (1948), Red River (1948), 3 Godfathers (1948), She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), and Rio Grande (1950).  Wayne by then had also begun producing some of his own films.  He also did a number of war movies, including: The Flying Tigers (1942), Back To Battan (1944), The Fighting Seabees(1944), Sands of Iow Jima (1949), Flying Leathernecks (1951), Operation Pacific (1951).  And there would also come other notable films in the early 1950s, such as and The Quiet Man (1952) and Hondo (1953).  Wayne was the biggest box-office attraction in 1950, 1951, and the third most popular star of 1952.  On television by this time as well, his earlier movies, especially westerns, were regular fare — though he was not a star on a specific TV show; he didn’t need one.

The Tobacco Celebrities

     This is one in a series of occasional articles that will focus on the history of popular celebrities from film, tele- vision, sports and other fields who have lent their names or voice, offered endorsing statements, or made person- al appearances in various forms of tobacco advertising and promotion.  Famous actors, sports stars and other notable personalities have been endors- ing tobacco products since the late 1800s.  One recent report published in the journal Tobacco Control, for example, notes that nearly 200 Hollywood stars from the 1930s and 1940s were contracted to tobacco companies for advertising.  And while the stigma associated with smoking and using other tobacco products has increased in recent years as medical research evidence linking disease to tobacco has become more widely understood, the promotion of tobacco products, while not as blatant and pervasive as it once was, continues to this day in a number of countries.  Not all celebrities, of course, have been involved in such endorsements, and some have worked for, or lent their names to, programs and organizations that help to prevent cigarette smoking or other tobacco-related public health problems.

     In the Camel cigarette ad above, which tries to push the “Camels-are-mild” line, Wayne is quoted as saying: “The roles I play in movies are far from easy on my voice — I can’t risk throat irritation.  So I smoke Camels — they are mild.”  Wayne continues his endorsement below the highlighted passage with the following: “I’ve been around movie sets enough to know how important mildness is to an actor.  So when it came to deciding what cigarette was right from my throat — I was particular I made a sensible test — my own 30-Day Camels Mildness Test.  I gave Camels a real tryout for 30 days.  The most pleasure I ever had from smoking.  My own T-Zone told me just how mild a cigarette can be.”  R. J. Reynolds in the 1940s had already started touting Camels and the smoothness and taste of its cigarettes. The company invented the “T-Zone” description for use in advertising, with some ads showing a white-lined area of the mouth and throat as the “T-Zone” (as in the woman’s photograph, lower left-hand corner in this ad) — also signifying “T for taste” and “T for throat.”  Wording of this sort would also appear in other Camel ad copy of the early 1950s, as well as in the quotes of celebrity endorsers.

     The Stanford University School of Medicine has noted that “throat cancer was well-recognized by the middle of the nineteenth century,” known then as “smoker’s cancer.”  And the tobacco industry, in advertising dating from the 1930s through the 1950s, used a strategy of “throat reassurance” to allay such fears, casting its celebrity voices in ways that stressed how their particular cigarette brands were mild on the throat.

     As the Wayne ad above continues, readers are encouraged to make their own “30 Day Mildness test.”  Then the ad signs off with the bold headline in the lower right: “Not One Single Case of Throat Irritation …Due to Smoking…” Then comes some additional ad copy in smaller print about that finding: “Yes, those were the findings of noted throat specialists after a total of 2,470 weekly examinations of the throats of hundreds of men and women who smoked Camels — and only Camels —  for 30 Days.”  This ad also includes some description of Wayne the movie star meant to appeal to men and women, as a small box to the right of his photo explains: “Man’s Idea of a Movie Hero.  And the women agree.  6 feet 4 inches, John Wayne has smashed his way to fame in dozens of motion pictures!”

     In another 1950 Camel print ad touting a “30-Day Camel Mildness Test,” the headline says: “With Stars who must think of their throats, it’s Cool, Mild Camels!”  Wayne appears in this ad as well, with the ad copy billing him as “John Wayne, Movie Hero,” and quoting him as follows: “The roles I play are far from easy on my voice!  Camels suit my throat to a ‘T’!”

An R. J. Reynolds magazine ad for Camel cigarettes features Hollywood star John Wayne, appearing to offer a personal note in his endorsement of Camels. Life magazine, July 1954.
An R. J. Reynolds magazine ad for Camel cigarettes features Hollywood star John Wayne, appearing to offer a personal note in his endorsement of Camels. Life magazine, July 1954.
     By mid-1954, Wayne was featured in more full-page R. J. Reynolds ads for Camels.  One, shown at right, has Wayne leaning back in a cane chair in a country cabin setting with cigarette in hand.  The headline reads: “John Wayne…a Camel fan goin’ on 24 years!”  Just below the headline is a hand-written note, with envelope behind it, as Wayne explains his many years of Camel loyalty:

“…in all that time, a man learns how to enjoy smoking – for mildness, for flavor, for pure pleasure. It’s kind of gratifying to see that my cigarette is America’s choice, too. John Wayne.”

     The ad’s copy then continues: “Talk to Camel smokers like John Wayne, popular Hollywood star, and you’ll quickly see why Camels keep increasing their lead over the next brand!  Clearly, nothing matches Camels’ blend of costly tobaccos for genuine mildness and specially-rich flavor!  If you smoke for the pure pleasure of smoking, try Camels for 30 days.  See what you’ve been missing!” Then in somewhat smaller italic print immediately below, comes a further appeal:

“Make your own 30 day Camel Mildness Test…see why more people find more pleasure in Camels year after year !”

     Then comes some information about Camels in the market: “Camels First in Sales ! Lead second brand by record 50.8 %.”  The ad’s closing pitch comes as follows: “For Mildness… for Flavor. Camels agree with more people than any other cigarette!”  This ad appeared on the back cover of Life magazine’s July 12, 1954 issue.  It also appeared in Popular Mechanics and possibly other magazines of that time as well.

     Wayne also appeared in some TV ads for cigarettes.  In one 1952 Camel TV ad, for example, Wayne spoke for the product, saying: “Mild and good tasting pack after pack.  And I know, I’ve been smokin’ em for twenty years.”  This commercial was filmed in conjunction with Wayne’s then forthcoming movie, Big Jim McLain, as the tobacco industry and Hollywood commonly engaged in cross-promotion deals in some of their advertising.  By the mid-1950s, Wayne reportedly was a five-to-six pack-a-day smoker of unfiltered Camels.  Wayne, of course, continued his stellar Hollywood career through the mid-1950s and early 1960s, making films such as: The High and the Mighty (1954), The Sea Chase (1955), The Searchers (1956), The Barbarian and the Geisha(1958), Rio Bravo(1959), The Alamo (1960), The Comancheros (1961), The Challenge of Ideas (1961), and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962).


Lung Cancer

John Wayne in 1961, from the film “The Challenge of Ideas.”
John Wayne in 1961, from the film “The Challenge of Ideas.”
     In 1964, John Wayne was diagnosed with lung cancer and underwent successful surgery to remove his entire left lung and four ribs.  Despite efforts by his business associates to prevent him from going public with his illness for fear it would hurt his image and cost him work, Wayne announced he had cancer and called on the public to get preventive examinations.  Five years later, Wayne was declared cancer-free.  However, despite the fact that Wayne’s diminished lung capacity left him incapable of prolonged exertion and frequently in need of supplemental oxygen, he returned to using some tobacco products.  Within a few years of his operation Wayne chewed tobacco and also began smoking cigars.  Wayne continued his film making into the late 1960s and early 1970s.  He starred in True Grit in 1969, which led to Rooster Cogburn, a film he made with Katharine Hepburn in 1975.  His last film came a year later with The Shootist, whose main character, J. B. Books, was dying of cancer.

Wayne was interviewed about his health & smoking in 1978.
Wayne was interviewed about his health & smoking in 1978.
     In January 1979 Wayne returned to the hospital  for lower abdomen surgery, when a low-grade cancerous tumor was found and part of his lower intestine was removed.  In June 1979, Wayne died at the at UCLA Medical Center.  The cause of death was given as complications from cancer. Wayne was 72 years old.  In 1956, Wayne had been part of the 220 or so cast and crew who made the film, The Conqueror, near St. George, Utah, downwind from where the U.S. Government had tested nuclear weapons in southeastern Nevada.  An astounding ninety-one people from that group, or 41 percent — including stars such as Susan Hayward and Agnes Moorehead in addition to Wayne — had come down with cancer.  Many who were at that filming location contend that radioactive fallout from the government’s tests contaminated the location and poisoned the film crew.  Some suggested Wayne’s 1964 lung cancer and his 1979 stomach cancer resulted from this nuclear contamination.  But Wayne himself believed his lung cancer at least was the result of his six-pack-a-day cigarette habit, which he reportedly told US Magazine writer James Bacon in 1978.  In the 1980s, Wayne’s family created the John Wayne Cancer Foundation and later, the John Wayne Cancer Institute, to help fight cancer with awareness and education programs and cancer research.

     John Wayne remains an iconic figure in American culture, having appeared in more than 250 films during his career, more than half of which he had the lead role.  He was formally recognized by the United States Congress on May 26, 1979, when he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, presented to his family at a formal ceremony in March 1980 at the U.S. Capitol.  In early June 1980, Wayne also received posthumously the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Jimmy Carter.

Readers of “Wayne for Camels” may also find the following stories of interest: “Al Jolson & Luckies, 1928-1940s” (Jolson as pitchman; Hollywood studios & tobacco companies);“Babe Ruth & Tobacco, 1920s-1940s” (baseball legend & tobacco products); “Gifford For Luckies, 1961-1962” (Frank Gifford, football star, promoting Lucky brand cigarettes); “Vines for Camels, 1934-1935” (Ellsworth Vines, tennis star in Camels ad); and, “21 of 23 Giants…Smoke Camels” (entire World Series team of 1933 used in ad to pitch cigarettes).

Thanks for visiting – and please consider supporting this website. Thank you. – Jack Doyle

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Date Posted:  29 January 2010
Last Update:  10 July 2014
Comments to:  jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “Wayne For Camels, 1950s,”
PopHistoryDig.com, January 29, 2010.

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Sources, Links & Additional Information

John Wayne appeared in the “Hollywood Legends” U.S. postage stamp series in the mid-1990s.
John Wayne appeared in the “Hollywood Legends” U.S. postage stamp series in the mid-1990s.
Moirafinnie, “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes,” Movie  Morlocks.com, May 13, 2009.

“Camel Cigarettes: Advertising Methodologies Through The 20th Century,” IndyMotorSpeed- way.com.

Listing of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. Advertise- ments, 1933-1969, TJS-Labs.com.

K.L Lum, J.R Polansky, R.K. Jackler, and S.A. Glantz, “Signed, Sealed and Delivered: ‘Big Tobacco’ in Hollywood, 1927-1951,” Tobacco Control Journal, September 25, 2008.

Ewen Callaway, “Hollywood Cut Secret Deals to Promote Smoking,” NewScientist.com, September 25, 2008.

James Bacon, “‘I’ve Licked It'; John Wayne Says He Had Cancer; Movie Star Reveals Operation Removed Malignancy in Lung,” Los Angeles Times, December 30, 1964.

Associated Press, “John Wayne Tells of Cancer Surgery,” New York Times, Tuesday, December 31, 1964, p. 13.

Grace Lichtenstein, “Hey, Mister! Wayne Marks First 50 Years,” New York Times, Tuesday, January 27, 1976, p. 48.

James Bacon, “John Wayne: The Last Cowboy,” US Magazine, June 27,1978, @ JWayne.com.

Around the Nation, “More Cancer Is Found In Surgery on John Wayne..,” New York Times, Saturday, May 5, 1979, p. 8.

AP, “John Wayne Dead of Cancer on Coast at 72,” New York Times, Tuesday, June 12, 1979, p. A-1.

Richard F. Shepard, “‘Duke,’ An American Hero,” New York Times, June 12, 1979

Editorial, “The Part John Wayne Played,” New York Times, Wednesday, June 13, 1979, p. A-24.

“John Wayne,” Wikipedia.org.

Garry Wills, John Wayne’s America: The Politics of Celebrity, Simon & Schuster, 1997.

Randy Roberts and James S. Olson, John Wayne: American, The Free Press, 1995.

Joseph McBride, Searching for John Ford, St. Martin’s Press, 2001.

Scott Eyman, Print the Legend: The Life and Times of John Ford, Simon & Schuster, 2000.

John Wayne Cancer Foundation and John Wayne Cancer Institute.

Alan Greenblatt, “An Actor, A University And A Famous Name Lead To A Lawsuit,” NPR.org, July 9, 2014.

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“…Keeps on Ticking”
1950s-1990s

Close-up portion of full-page 1953 ad for a ‘torture tested’ Timex watch taped to Mickey Mantle’s baseball bat.
Close-up portion of full-page 1953 ad for a ‘torture tested’ Timex watch taped to Mickey Mantle’s baseball bat.
     In the 1950s and 1960s, Timex, a brand-named wristwatch, became some- thing of an iconic American product through a long-running advertising campaign that used celebrities to pitch the product.  Print ads, such as the one at right with New York Yankee baseball star, Mickey Mantle, were featured in the major magazines of the day.  They showed Timex watches being subject to various kinds of “torture tests” to demonstrate their durability, shock resistance, and/or superior waterproof- ing.  In the ad at right, the watch was taped to Mantle’s bat as he took batting practice.

     The Timex “torture test” advertising was also used in TV ads, a series made popular by celebrity newscaster John Cameron Swayze who hosted the spots.  A number of these ads also featured sports celebrities who doled out the tough treatment to the watches and/or supplied an endorsing statement.  Swayze also hosted non-celebrity Timex ads in which the watch would be subject to other trials — whether placed in a washing machine or attached to the bow of a speed boat.  Swayze had made a name for himself as a broadcaster and became a trusted national personality and a believable pitchman for Timex.  For over 20 years — well into the 1970s — Swayze appeared in the advertising series with one kind of Timex watch or another being subject to various physical challenges to prove their durability, shock resistance, and/or superior waterproofing.

Full page layout of Mickey Mantle ad.
Full page layout of Mickey Mantle ad.
 

     In the Mickey Mantle print ad, for example, the full-page version, shown at left, starts off with the following headline:

“AMAZING TEST BY MICKEY MANTLE PROVES TIMEX WATCHES ARE REALLY RUGGED…”

     Two photographic panels then show Mantle in action swinging his bat, with one close-up of the barrel of the bat with the Timex watch taped to it.  Then the ad’s text and a smaller headline run below the photos:

“Unusual Verified Shock Test Proves Timex Can Take a Beating Yet Keep on Ticking”

     “At Yankee Stadium, Mickey Mantle, one of the great power hitters of modern baseball stepped to the plate.  To the back of his bat was strapped a Timex Marlin watch.  50 times a ball was pitched to the Yankee slugger.  50 times, he sent scorching drives to all corners of the park.  Then, in the presence of witnesses, Mickey examined the Timex watch.  It was still running — and still on time!  Here is dramatic proof of the amazing sturdiness, accuracy and dependability which has made Timex the watch choice of millions.”


Timex Origins

Full-page Timex ad touting its watches in the ‘Saturday Evening Post,’ 1953.
Full-page Timex ad touting its watches in the ‘Saturday Evening Post,’ 1953.
     Timex is an American watch company with roots that date to 1854 and the Waterbury Clock Company that began in Connecticut’s Naugatuck Valley.  Waterbury became known as the “Switzerland of America” during the 19th century.  Its sister company, Waterbury Watch, manufactured the first inexpensive pocket watch in 1880.  By World War I, Waterbury began making wristwatches, which were just then becoming popular.  In the 1930s, Waterbury became known for creating the first Mickey Mouse clock with Mickey’s hands pointing to the time.

     During World War II, Waterbury Clock became U.S. Time Company and following the war, in 1950, it introduced the Timex wristwatch.  At first, jewelers resisted carrying the watch because of its low 50 percent mark-up, as other brands offered 100 percent mark-ups.  U.S. Time Co. then went elsewhere with its watches, setting up displays in drugstores, department stores, and cigar stands — mechanical displays that dunked a ticking watch into water and banged it with a hammer.  Then the company began its magazine advertising, stressing its product’s durability, shock resistance, and waterproofing.  Consumers soon began buying the watches.  By 1951, the company had produced almost 2 million, gaining an 18 percent share of the low-priced U.S. wristwatch market.

1950s’ print ad showing turtles ‘testing’ Timex watches  – ‘banged around all day on ten turtles underwater. They all kept running right on time...They all lived up to the waterproof, shock-resistant guarantee...’
1950s’ print ad showing turtles ‘testing’ Timex watches – ‘banged around all day on ten turtles underwater. They all kept running right on time...They all lived up to the waterproof, shock-resistant guarantee...’
     Then in 1952-54, the company began a more focused advertising campaign, first with print ads using the torture tests — a la Mickey Mantle, race horses, swimming turtles, and more.  Shortly thereafter, in 1956, it teamed up with spokesman John Cameron Swayze to do TV advertising, and sales took off.  The company later became the Timex Corporation, then the Timex Group.  To date, Timex has sold over one billion watches.  But it was in the 1950s that the brand established itself, and in no small part due to its celebrity-assisted, “torture test” advertising, using the famous line, “It takes a licking and keeps on ticking.”

     What made Timex watches so durable was their design and inner workings.  Technically, the watch employed a special escapement which had a cone-shaped balance staff that rotated in bearings made of a very hard alloy called “Armalloy.”  The balance staff is the most delicate component in a watch, the part most likely to be displaced by a jolt.  Timex made theirs sturdier, which greatly enhanced the watch’s shock-resistance.  In addition, the Timex movement had fewer parts than other watches, making it even more durable.  The Timex watch was also priced right — with 1950s prices ranging initially from $6.75 to $7.95, then $9.95 to $12.95.  And the watches kept reasonably good time, off only by a minute or two a day, according to one 1950s’ estimate.  Consumers loved them, and they snapped them up in the millions.

Timex magazine ad of 1954 showing four sports stars who tested and/or endorsed Timex watches.
Timex magazine ad of 1954 showing four sports stars who tested and/or endorsed Timex watches.
     One round of ads in the print series appearing in 1954 featured sports stars in addition to Mickey Mantle.  Ben Hogan, a top professional golfer in the 1950s, was also featured in some Timex ads during this period (see below, later), as was professional boxer Rocky Marciano, shown below in a separate ad.  The Timex print ads also included female athletes putting the watch through its paces. 

     In the ad copy at right — with a headline billing Timex as “The Action Watch for Active People” — four panels show a selection of athletes who tested the watches.  In ad’s top half, skater Barbara Ann Scott is shown in the left photograph, and golf star, Babe Didrikson at right.  Scott won North American, World and Olympic figure skating honors between 1945 and 1948 and was the first female to land a double lutz when she was 13.  Didrikson, a phenomenal Olympic track star in the 1930s, later turned to a successful career in professional golf.  Scott and Didrikson, like Mantle and Marciano who are also shown here, were also featured in separate magazine ads as well as this composite.

Saturday Evening Post ad, June 1954, featuring Rocky Marciano.
Saturday Evening Post ad, June 1954, featuring Rocky Marciano.


Rocky’s Ad

     One version of the Rocky Marciano ad appeared in the Saturday Evening Post of June 1954.  Marciano was then the World Heavyweight Boxing Champ.  In the ad, the headline and text ran as follows:

 

The Watch ‘The Rock’ Couldn’t Stop!


     “The Timex Waterproof Marlin rides Rocky Marciano’s smashing, jolting punches on the body bag, the rapid, bouncing blows in the light bag, then a hot and cold shower.  At the end of this workout, Rocky checked and said:  ‘Still running, and right on time. It’s true that Timex takes a licking and keeps on ticking — a true champion’.”

     Then in 1956, Timex moved its torture-test advertising campaign to television, teaming up with John Cameron Swayze.



John Cameron Swayze
The News & Timex

John Cameron Swayze, NBC Radio.
John Cameron Swayze, NBC Radio.
     In the person of John Cameron Swayze, Timex found a perfect pitchman — a much-liked and confident newsman with a “crisp but folksy voice,” as one New York Times writer would later describe him.  Swayze, working with Timex, received about twenty years’ worth of national TV exposure in the ad series and he became a familiar celebrity and something of a household name as a result.

     Swayze was born in Wichita, Kansas in 1904.  He aspired first to the Broadway stage and had attended drama school in New York, but in the late 1920s and early 1930s, the dismal economy foreclosed acting possi- bilities.  He threw in his lot as a newspaper reporter, working in Kansas City, shortly becoming a radio broadcaster there.  He then moved to Hollywood in 1944 landing a desk job with NBC’s Western News Division.  In 1947 the network moved him to New York, where Swayze proposed a radio quiz program, Who Said That, in which a panel tried to identify people behind a famous quote.  NBC liked the idea and so did his listeners.  NBC later appointed Swayze to moderate their televised coverage of the 1948 Republican and Democratic national conventions — the first ever such coverage.  The following year he became one of the first “news anchormen,” hosting the Camel News Caravan, a 15-minute news program sponsored by Camel cigarettes that was broadcast five times a week on NBC ( later sponsored on alternating nights by Plymouth automobiles, called the Plymouth News Caravan). 

John Cameron Swayze in TV news studio, 1949.
John Cameron Swayze in TV news studio, 1949.
     At the time, newspapers and newsreels were the primary sources of news.  The News Caravan shows replaced the old newsreel format, becoming the forerunners of the modern TV newscast.  The show included live news events, interviews with entertainers and government officials, and roundups by commen- tators from different cities.  Swayze would later be described by New York Times writer Randy Kennedy as bringing ” a light, jaunty touch to the news.” He would also be accused by some as being more interested in pictures and personalities than hard news.  Swayze would later say that part of his role was “making people feel good.”  In any case, the news show became quite popular, and Swayze with it, becoming one of TV’s first “news celebrities.” In addition to the News Caravan, Swayze appeared on other programs during the early ’50s including as a permanent panelist on the NBC quiz show Who Said That? where he impressed viewers and colleagues with his encyclopedic knowledge of current events.  He also hosted a show for kids called Watch the World.

Swayze at torture test with outboard motor.
Swayze at torture test with outboard motor.
     On the evening news show, Swayze built up huge ratings as an energetic and confident newscaster.  He wrote most of the scripts and memorized them so he could look directly as his audience.  Those who worked with him said he had a terrific memory.  However, by 1956 as his rating slipped, Swayze had fallen out of favor and was dismissed as NBC brought on a new anchor team Chet Huntley and David Brinkley.  Swayze then moved over to Timex, essentially bringing his newscasting style to “reporting” the gospel according to Timex, becoming known for the trade-marked ‘keeps on ticking’ catch-phrase at the end of each spot.  Swayze did the Timex TV ads for about two decades.  He appeared in advertising for other products as well, including Camel cigarettes and Studebaker cars.  Swayze also made a few movie cameos during his career, but he is most remembered for his Timex spots.  John Cameron Swayze died in August 1995 at his summer home in Sarasota, Florida, having moved there from Connecticut after falling into ill health.  He was 89.


Swayze & Timex

     The Timex TV ads — with Swayze setting up the action and reporting on the results — showed Timex watches being strapped to the propeller of an outboard motor, taped to a lobster claw in an underwater tank, or being held fist-first by a famous Acapulco cliff diver going head first into the sea from high cliffs.  In these action spots, Swayze would retrieve the watch after the test and show it close up, or the camera would otherwise zoom in on the watch in its attached position so viewers could see the sweep hand moving over the watch face.  Swayze at that point would typically add something like:  “Incredibly, the watch is still working after taking that pounding — Timex takes a licking and keeps on ticking.”  Americans loved the ads, and many wrote in by the thousands, suggesting new ways to torture the Timex pieces.  One Air Force sergeant even offered to crash a plane while wearing a Timex watch.  But the torture tests were selling those watches.  By the end of the 1950s, one out of every three watches bought in the U.S. was a Timex.

1950s Timex ad with pro golfer, Ben Hogan.
1950s Timex ad with pro golfer, Ben Hogan.

     Among other tortures that Timex watches endured and survived in these demonstrations were the following: being placed in a paint mixer, frozen in an ice cube tray, spun in a vacuum cleaner, placed on the leg of a race horse, attached to ice skater’s boot above the blade (see video above ), tossed over the Grand Coulee Dam, attached to an archer’s arrow tip that was shot through a pane of glass, attached to the blade of an outboard motor, strapped to a tackle line and cast off a deep-sea fishing boat, attached to the pontoon of a plane that landed on water in Hawaii, and swallowed by a farmer’s cow in Texas.  However, there was one reported incident of an elephant crushing a Timex — a board with a Timex affixed to its underside, then stood upon by the elephant in a one-leg pose.

     In most of the tests — some done live — Swayze was always his buoyant self and rarely at a loss for words, filling in with appropriate banter when need be — as he did when one Mexican cliff diver was being banged around in rough surf after completing his dive with a Timex.  In another live commercial, broadcast in 1958 during The Steve Allen Show, a watch that had been fastened to the blade of outboard motor being run in a stage tank, came off during the test and Swayze could not retrieve it.  “Without missing a beat,” explains New York Times writer, Randy Kennedy, Swayze reported that the watch was probably “still ticking” at the bottom of the tank.

Timex ads in more recent years have sought a hipper image, with various plays on one’s use of time, here for the Ironman triathlete type (2009).
Timex ads in more recent years have sought a hipper image, with various plays on one’s use of time, here for the Ironman triathlete type (2009).
     In May 1960, Swayze and Timex received some special exposure when three Timex TV ads ran on the much-watched Frank Sinatra Timex Show — Welcome Home Elvis.  That show starred Sinatra and his “Rat Pack” group of friends and entertainers who were welcoming Elvis Presley back from his stint in the U.S. Army.  In one of the ads during that show, Swayze stood by as the dolphin “Nellie” tested the watch in a series of jumps at Marine World in Florida.  Timex, meanwhile, continued to do well in sales, and was soon at the top of the U.S. and world markets.  By 1963, nearly half the watches sold in the U.S. were from Timex.  By 1967, it was the world’s best-selling watch brand.

     In the 1970s, the American watch and clock industry was devastated by the arrival of cheap mechanical watches from the Far East, as well as the development of digital quartz watches pioneered by the Japanese.  Timex survived the 1970s and 1980s and began a comeback.  It phased out mechanical watch production in favor of digital watches and also introduced new lines.  In 1986, its “Ironman Triathlon” watch, jointly devised by athletes and industrial designers, became America’s best-selling watch, later adding a full line for men and women to become the world’s largest selling sports watch well into the1990s.  Timex remains profitable and competitive today, although its primary market remains the U.S. and Canada.  The company sells a number of other brands such as Guess, Nautica, Ecko, Opex and is also in the luxury watch market with Versace.  It also manufactures the Timex Datalink series of PDA-type watches, GPS-enabled watches, heart rate monitor exercise watches, and other high-tech devices.

1991 Timex ad touting survival abilities of its wearer and also the ‘keeps-on-ticking’ slogan in red lettering that encircles description, below.
1991 Timex ad touting survival abilities of its wearer and also the ‘keeps-on-ticking’ slogan in red lettering that encircles description, below.
1991 Timex watch ad description of Helen Thayer.
1991 Timex watch ad description of Helen Thayer.


“Ticking” in 1990s

     John Cameron Swayze and his Timex ads, meanwhile, remained a staple of the company’s TV advertising through the mid- to-late-1970s, then being phased out.  However, in 1989, about a decade after the ads had ceased, Timex decided to bring back the famous slogan — and also Swayze’s recorded voice — to use in some newer TV ads.  Swayze at the time was then in his 80s.  Timex desperately wanted to modernize its image at the time and not return to the past.  However, research convinced Timex otherwise, showing that baby boomers who grew up with the ads had a fondness for them and remembered Swayze and the lines.  Timex asked 2,000 consumers what they remem- bered most about the watch maker.  “Just about everyone said, ‘It takes a licking and keeps on ticking’,” said Timex advertising manager Ron Sok in1989.  “Keep in mind, we hadn’t used that slogan in our ads for 10 years.”

     So Timex dusted off its old slogan, added some funny plot lines, and launched their new TV ads for 1989-1990.  One featured Timex watches strapped to the bellies of Sumo wrestlers — with the watches surviving.  Another showed a psychic with mind power that could bend a fork, but couldn’t stop a Timex watch.  A third had an opera singer’s shrill voice shattering every object in the opera hall — except the Timex watch.  And at the end of each of these ads came Swayze’s voice assuring the viewers that, indeed, Timex watches “keep on ticking.”  In print ads too, Timex featured individuals who endured /survived rugged physical challenges — i.e., took a licking, but kept on ticking — as shown in the 1991 sample ad at right.  But in these ads, Timex also found a way to keep using its venerable slogan, “it takes a licking and keeps on ticking,” printed in red to encircle the descriptive ad copy.

     Timex has since revamped its advertising strategy a few times, using newer and hipper themes —  though departing from its classic slogan with some trepidation.  In 2003 or so, it tried “Timex: Life is Ticking” and more recently it has used, “Timex: Be There Now,” as in the ad sample for the Ironman watch shown above earlier.  Still, in the pantheon of memorable advertising, the “keeps on ticking” line remains one of the top rated ad campaigns —  ranked No. 40 by Advertising Age on its list of the top 100 campaigns of the 20th century.  The classic Timex campaign of the 1950s and 1960s is also a good example of the use of novelty action and celebrity association in advertising.

     To see additional stories on advertising and marketing at this website, go to the “Madison Avenue” category page which lists thumbnails and more story choices. See also the “Annals of Sport” page or the “TV & Culture” page for stories in those categories. Thanks for visiting — and please consider supporting this website. Thank you. – Jack Doyle

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Date Posted: 17 August 2009
Last Update: 4 October 2014
Comments to:  jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation
Jack Doyle, “…Keeps on Ticking, 1950s-1990s,”
PopHistoryDig.com, August 17, 2009.

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Sources, Links & Additional Information

Timex also sponsored popular TV shows, touting its sponsorship in advertising, as in this 1957 ad for 'The Bob Hope Show'.
Timex also sponsored popular TV shows, touting its sponsorship in advertising, as in this 1957 ad for 'The Bob Hope Show'.
“Amazing Test by Mickey Mantle Proves Timex Watches Are Really Rugged,” Timex Adver- tisement, Saturday Evening Post, various dates, 1953-1954.

John Cameron Swayze,” Wikipedia.org.

“Timex History and Vintage Timex Watch Com- mercials,” RyanRooney.com.

“Corporations: Watches For an Impulse,” Time, Friday, March 15, 1963.

“Timeline,” TimeExpo, The Timex Museum.

Rocky Marciano, in full-page advertisement for Timex Watches at training camp, Saturday Evening Post, June 1954.

Isadore Barmash, “The Mainspring of Timex; Lehmkuhl Pins Hope On Quartz Watches,” New York Times, Sunday, December 5, 1971, Business & Finance, p. F-7.

Randall Rothenberg, The Media Business: Advertising, “Some of Those Slogans Just Keep On Ticking,” New York Times, Friday, December 9, 1988.

Bruce Horovitz, “It’s Commercial ‘Deja Vu’ As Old Ad Slogans Become the Latest Thing,”Los Angeles Times, September 19, 1989.

John Cameron Swayze also did advertisements for Camel cigarettes in the 1950s, as Camel sponsored his news show.  In that day, however, celebrities of all stripes -- actors, TV personalities, even sports stars -- did tobacco ads.
John Cameron Swayze also did advertisements for Camel cigarettes in the 1950s, as Camel sponsored his news show. In that day, however, celebrities of all stripes -- actors, TV personalities, even sports stars -- did tobacco ads.

Brian Jenkins, “John Cameron Swayze Dead at 89,”CNN, August 16, 1995.

Randy Kennedy, John Cameron Swayze, 89, Journalist and TV Pitchman,” New York Times, August 17, 1995.

“Top 100 Advertising Campaigns: The Advertising Century,” AdAge.com, (Advertising Age maga- zine), viewed, August 16, 2009.

Timex Torture Test TV Ad (1950s), “Extreme Cliff Diving,” Timex TV Ad with John Cameron Swayze featuring Champion Cliff Diver, Raoul Garcia at the La Perla Cliffs, Aculpulco, Mexico, on You Tube. (2:23 minutes).

Timex Torture Test TV Ad (1960), “Nellie The Dolphin,” Timex TV Ad with John Cameron Swayze at Marine World, Florida, on You Tube (2:05 minutes)

Timex Torture Test TV Ad (1971), “Champion Skater,” at Sun Valley, Idaho with John Cameron Swayze,on You Tube. (1:30 minutes)

Timex Torture Test TV Ad, “Archer’s Arrow Through Pane of Glass,” Timex Ad with John Cameron Swayze on You Tube (1:49 minutes)

Barbara Matusow, The Evening Stars, New York: Houghton-Mifflin Co.,1983.

Jeff Alan, Anchoring America: The Changing Face of Network News , 2003, 426pp.

More recent Timex ad: ‘Before you yell ‘Surf’s Up!’ make sure you know what you’re talking about.  The Timex E-Instruments E-Tide & Temp provides tidal trend and air or water temperature readings all with the push of a button.’
More recent Timex ad: ‘Before you yell ‘Surf’s Up!’ make sure you know what you’re talking about. The Timex E-Instruments E-Tide & Temp provides tidal trend and air or water temperature readings all with the push of a button.’

Stuart Elliott, The Media Business, “Advertising: ‘Takes a Licking and Keeps on Ticking’ Is On The Way Out at Timex. Now, it’s ‘Life is ticking’,” New York Times, August 26, 2003.

1955 TV Newscast With John Cameron Swayze (Sample 1), Plymouth News Caravan of April 18, 1955, You Tube ( 8:42 minutes). Note: This early TV newscast bears little resemblance to today’s more sophisticated product, but it does show the early origins of TV news and format. Stories covered in this example include the death of Albert Einstein and some earlier statements by Einstein on camera. Also includes commercials.

1955 TV Newscast with John Cameron Swayze, (Sample 2), Plymouth News Caravan of April 21, 1955 (14+ minutes). Plymouth News Caravan alternated with Camel News Caravan on Tuesday and Thursday nights, 7:45-8pm, Eastern Time.

Timex Website, “As Advertised In.”

Camel Newsreel Theatre, A 10-minute Fox/ Movietone Newsreel Narrated Off-Screen by John Cameron Swayze February 1948 – February 1949.

Camel News Caravan,  A 15-minute Televised Newscast Hosted by John Cameron Swayze, February 1949 – October 1956.






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