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History Matters: Lathering Up
Innovations and trends that shaped your ancestors’ lives. In this issue: soap.
Babylonians already had invented soap around 2800 BC, but the slippery stuff was hit-and-miss with our ancestors until as recently as a century ago. That’s when advertising started selling us soap sex appeal.
In 1910, the Andrew Jergens Co. was about to jettison Woodbury’s Facial Soap, a brand it had acquired nine years earlier, because of sagging sales. But Jergens gave it one last shot, turning to the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency, which assigned the account to Helen Lans­downe and her new Women’s Editorial Department. For the first time, women were in charge of marketing to other women, applying “feminine habits of thought.” Resulting ads emphasized the consumer’s concerns, such as “Conspicuous nose pores—how to reduce them.” The following year, Lansdowne introduced the slogan “A skin you love to touch,” and the modern business of selling soap was born.
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