Gillette Flunks the Giggle Test
Humorist Dave Barry described the halcyon days of the single-blade razor as "The Golden Age of Not Having Razor Companies Introduce Some Ludicrously Unnecessary New Shaving Technology Every Ten Damn Minutes."
A False USP on a 120-year-old Product
The search for the great USP is not restricted to a new product. Listerine came on the market in 1879 as a disinfectant for surgical procedures. In 1895 it was reformulated as a powerful oral antiseptic and became one of the first prescription products to be sold over the counter. In 1923, Labert & Feasley came up with a classic ad showing a very pretty young woman with the caption, "Always a bridesmaid, but never a bride." The implication was her bad breath kept her from a trip down the aisle.
For many years, Listerine was sold as a remedy for sore throats and colds until the Federal Trade Commission forced the company to run ads stating that Listerine would not cure a cold or sore throat.
Fast-forward to 2004. I use Listerine, and I use dental floss. The little sticker on my bottle claiming that Listerine was as effective as dental floss in fighting plaque did not pass my giggle test. Nor did it pass the giggle test of Manhattan Federal District Court Judge Denny Chin who ruled in favor of Johnson & Johnson's claim that the statement posed an unfair threat to its sales of dental floss. The result: Listerine had to spend $2 million sending 4,000 workers around the country changing the stickers on bottles and removing ads hanging from bottle necks.
In short, the advertising greats who kept clients on the straight and narrow path to integrity and profitability are gone--David Ogilvy, Bill Bernbach, Rosser Reeves, Ted Bates, Bruce Barton, Bill Benton, J. Walter Thompson, Raymond Rubicam and Leo Burnett.