Gee Whillickers!

Targeted Marketing

The famed florist Max Schling once ran a brilliant ad in The New York Times: The copy, entirely in shorthand, was clipped by thousands of curious businessmen who naturally asked their secretaries for a translation. The ad – addressed to these very secretaries – asked them to remember Schling when the boss wanted flowers for his wife!

“The love of flowers is really the best teacher of how to grow and understand them.”

— Max Schling, 1935, from his book Everyman’s Garden

Obviously a man who must have also loved marketing.

A sample of shorthand writing.


The BIC Boy

Ever wonder where the BIC® logo and name came from? What’s with that 8-ball-headed boy with the large cudgel-looking instrument behind his back, anyway?

This logo dates from 1950 when BIC (short for Marcel Bich, the company’s founder) ballpoint pens appeared in France bearing this insignia.

In 1952, well-known graphic designer Raymond Savignac created the earliest slogan: “Elle court, elle court, la Pointe BIC®” (it runs, it runs, the BIC® point). An ad slogan that’d be a little tricky today, easily conjuring images of blackened front shirt pockets and stained desk drawers, but it served well in that time and place.

Then, a decade later, to promote the new tungsten-carbide ballpoint pen, appeared the “BIC Boy.” According to BIC’s website, “Hoping to catch the eyes of children, he designed a schoolboy with his head replaced by the pen’s ball and holding a pen behind his back.” Strange, but it stuck. “Bille” stands for ball bearing or marble in French, and it’s also slang for face or mug. That helps explain the boy’s dark, glittering noggin.

So, the year after it was conceptualized, the schoolboy design was placed in front of the BIC letters, becoming the registered trademark we know today. Though it comes from a time when the company made only ballpoint pens, it has become the brand for the entire pantheon of BIC’s stationery products, lighters and shaving razors.

Next Month…

In our youth, many of us pondered over the odd semantics and logic of the accusative statement “Only you can prevent forest fires!” – some kind of endorsement of anti-arson vigilantism. Let us have a closer look at Smokey the Bear.

Gee Whillickers!

Presidential Slogan

Theodore Roosevelt once commented that a certain beverage was “good to the last drop.” Today the slogan belongs to Maxwell House Coffee as a registered trademark. And, though its present-day marketing reps might hint that “legend has it” the slogan has been attached to their product for the hundred years or so that have passed since it was first uttered, actually the phrase was originally appropriated as a slogan by Coca-Cola in 1907 and only years later by General Foods after they purchased the presidential brand of coffee.

Ad Absurdum!

Tim Almost Lost His Job

When in doubt, consult the wisdom of advertising placed in vintage issues of pulp magazines; ads designed in a comic-strip style that must have been sure to get people reading.

Let’s learn from poor Tim. If only he’d known the splinter-laden toilet tissue he was using was preventing him from climbing the corporate ladder, nay, endangering his very future in the workplace!

What we discover after a few illustrated panels is that all he needed was doctor-recommended tissue that felt soft and smooth as cloth. But what deep truth can we derive from this ad, this informative act of goodwill, this public service announcement?

That the secret to getting a big wad of cash is held within a big wad of the right wipe!