THE AYER HOUSE ADS - "The Stranger At The Gate"

. Sunday, March 16, 2008

N W. AYER & SON was probably the first advertising agency to advertise both ado vertising and itself in national as well as trade publications. Its first advertisements appeared as early as 1870 and for many years, beginning in 1919, the N. W. Ayer "house" ads ran regularly in The Saturday Evening Post. Many Ayer writers contributed to the different campaigns. As I remember it, W. M. Gerdine and Amos Stote were two of the earlier men whose work appeared over the Ayer signature. Certainly none became more famous, however, than Raymond Rubicam who followed them, and who wrote such memorable pieces as The Stranger at the Gate, The Maverick and The Apple that Never Was Picked.
Back in the early 20s, a large segment ofindustry was still unsold on the usefulness and value of advertising. The Ayer series of Rubicam's time undertook to help make advertisers out of non-advertisers and was a highly important contributor to that agency's distinguished and sustained success, and to advertising as a whole. What Rubicam did so well was to illustrate the advertising point he was making by leading off with some simple, highly pointed, easily recognized and engaging parallel in some field outside of advertising.
Not only did Rubicam's series arouse the enthusiasm and improve the morale of the Ayer sales force and staff, but it began to draw a heavy mail - including invitations from prominent national advertisers to call on them.

SQUIBB - "The Priceless Ingredient"


IN 1921, Squibb had never advertised to the public, but wanted to advertise certain "household" drug products which are on most bathroom shelves. Squibb did a large business with the rvedical profession and felt that the profession would scrutinize very critically any advertising to the public that it might do. So the problem given to Raymond Rubicam, then a writer at N. W. Ayer & Son, was to produce a series of advertisements which would sell Squibb to the public and not offend the publicity sensitive medical profession.

Squibb had done a masterly job of convincing young Rubicam of its high professional standards and the importance of its contributions to the science of medicine. So much so that Rubicam admits to this day that his efforts to produce something off the beaten track "are still painful in my mind." He became obsessed with the problem and covered dozens of yellow sheets with headlines, both in the office and at home. One night at two in the morning, he seemed as far away from the solution as ever. Wearily gathering up his yellow sheets before going to bed, he took one more look through the mass of headlines he had written. "Suddenly," he writes, "two separate word combinations popped out at me from two different headlines. One was The Priceless Ingredient and the other Honor and Integrity. Instantly, the two came together in my mind and I knew I had the headline and the slant that solved the problem: The Priceless Ingredient o f Every Product is the Honor and Integrity o f its Maker. The next day I wrote a full piece of copy around this, and Jim Mathes and I submitted it personally to the late Mr. Theodore Weicker, who was then vice president, and later president, of Squibb.
"The first text did not contain the parable about Hakeem, the Wise Man, which finally was used to lead-off the text, with Hakeem pronouncing The Priceless Ingredient sentence just as I first wrote it."
The parable was introduced by Mr. Weicker.
Both Raymond Rubicam and Theodore Weicker have been widely credited with the origination of The Priceless Ingredient idea, but the foregoing is the actual story of what happened.
The phrase, The Priceless Ingredient o f Every Product is the Honor and Integrity o f its Maker, became a permanent part of Squibb advertising and appears on practically everything bearing the Squibb name. During the more than quarter century of its use, the Squibb advertising appropriation has grown to many times its 1921 size.