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Selling Sex and Science

Woodbury’s Facial Soap Case Study

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Abstract

Helen Lansdowne was instrumental in the creation of the Woodbury’s Facial Soap advertising campaign; she spent months on research and product analysis prior to the initial educational/scientific campaign in 1910.1 Lansdowne is also credited with the provocative campaign slogan “A Skin You Love To Touch,” which debuted in 1914 and was accompanied by a sensual and romantic image and supporting ad copy. The ad captured the imagination of the American public and educated women on various skin problems.2 Lansdowne’s Woodbury’s ad campaign is listed as one of the top ten achievements of J. Walter Thompson (JWT) in one of its company histories. And the Woodbury’s slogan “A Skin You Love To Touch” came to be the “descriptive trademark” of the Woodbury products, which embody “beauty, and the love, envy and admiration beauty engenders.”3

Keywords

  • Scientific Claim
  • Emotional Appeal
  • Ideal Beauty
  • Beauty Contest
  • Female Consumer

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

The Woodbury’s business and the Jergens business … is what physicians would call a perfect case: it touches almost every problem of an advertiser.

—Stanley Resor, in a speech to a JWT class, April 12, 1920, JWT Archives, Woodbury’s Account Files

Soap Is Civilization.

—Unilever Company slogan

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Notes

  1. This slogan was copyrighted in 1914, three years after Lansdowne was promoted to the JWT New York City (JWT/NYC) office. Lansdowne also worked on the Crisco shortening account starting in 1909 or 1910; Crisco was introduced to the public in 1911. Stanley Resor started to spend more time at the JWT/NYC office, and, in 1912, Resor moved permanently to the NYC office. In 1916, a group headed by Resor bought JWT for $500,000. Resor became president of JWT, and the following year (1917), he and Lansdowne married. Stephen Fox, Mirror Makers: A History of American Advertising and Its Creators (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1997), 82. At JWT/NYC, Resor and Lansdowne continued to divide tasks as before. In general, Resor tended to administration and client services while Lansdowne concentrated on the creative work of ads. But informally, they discussed all aspects of the business, over the dinner table or on the commuter train to Greenwich, so decisions typically emerged with no clear line of accountability to either one (ibid.).

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  2. Anne McClintock, “Soft-Soaping Empire: Commodity Racism and Imperial Advertising,” in The Gender and Consumer Culture Reader, ed. Jennifer Scanlon (New York: New York University Press, 2000), 129.

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  3. Juliann Sivulka, Stronger Than Dirt: A Cultural History of Advertising Personal Hygiene in America, 1875–1940 (New York: Humanity Books, 2001), 18–19.

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  4. Peggy J. Kreshel, “The ‘Culture’ of J. Walter Thompson, 1915–1925.” Public Relations Review 16, no. 8 (Fall 1990): 81.

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  5. Laura Mulvey, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” Screen 16, no. 3 (Autumn 1975): 27.

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  6. Fern Johnson, Imaging in Advertising: Verbal and Visual Codes of Commerce (New York: Routledge, 2008), 4.

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© 2009 Denise H. Sutton

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Sutton, D.H. (2009). Selling Sex and Science. In: Globalizing Ideal Beauty. Palgrave Macmillan, New York. https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230100435_5

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